Our response to Ofsted’s new inspection framework

12th March 2019

Last week nutureuk submitted its response to Ofsted’s consultation on the framework against which schools will be measured during inspections. Given the importance to schools of a successful Ofsted inspection, the framework acts to set priorities for schools and teachers across England. This makes it hugely important for determining pupils’ experiences at school.

We welcomed Ofsted’s new “quality of education” judgement which promises to reduce the emphasis on assessments within the inspection. Within this judgement, the framework notes the need for teachers to create “an environment that allows the learner to focus on learning”. However, as a charity which supports interventions for children who face barriers to their learning such as social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, we believe more should be done to recognise the schools that are taking steps to remove barriers to learning and encourage more to follow their example.

We also welcomed the fact that school leaders are encouraged to ensure all pupils finish school rather than facing exclusion. However, more could be done to prevent exclusions, not just by viewing them as a last resort but by actively encouraging interventions to reduce them as early as possible.  This would reflect last year’s findings by the House of Commons Education Committee that a lack of early intervention and an increase in mental health needs were partly to blame for the rise in number of children being excluded and educated in alternative provision.

We believe the framework should include stronger measures to encourage schools to reduce the attainment gap disadvantaged pupils face. Specifically we’re concerned that text from the previous framework explicitly noting that “inspectors will consider: how quickly disadvantaged children, and any groups of pupils that are underachieving are catching up” has been removed. Whilst mention of the need for an inclusive education was present in other sections of the framework, we are concerned this change could lead to reduced focus on interventions for those pupils who are struggling because of factors like social, emotional and mental health needs which have a knock-on impact on their learning. Given we know these children’s academic attainment can be improved through interventions like nurture groups that address learners SEMH needs, Ofsted should be doing more to encourage their use in schools.

We also argued that there should be a greater recognition of the links between personal development and behaviour. Judgements of how schools manage these two have been separated in the new framework. Whilst this may be helpful in some respects, ensuring both are seen as important, we believe the link between them should be more strongly acknowledged. For example, supporting students to care for their mental health is currently classed under the judgement on personal development. However, our interventions for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs have been shown to reduce the number of pupils displaying difficult behaviour. This means that rather than separate behaviour and issues like mental health, schools should be encouraged to spot the links that might help them to improve behaviour whilst developing their pupils.

As well as submitting our views directly we also contributed to the Fair Education Alliance’s joint response. We hope Ofsted will bear these ideas in mind to create a consultation framework which encourages schools to support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.