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19 April 2022
By Tel German

The Inspection Game

Here at The Education People, the first half of the year has been hectic with much of the activity within our Education Improvement Division driven by changes to the Education Inspection Framework. It is fair to say that, as with any changes to the inspection framework, the autumn term proved challenging for any schools finding themselves in the crosshairs, with many inspections judged by education establishments to be brutal, inconsistent, lacking coherence and unreliable. It appears that alongside the emergence of the daffodils this spring, a sense of rationality has returned with recent inspections taking a more measured and supportive approach.

Putting aside the myriad of issues around inspection, concerns from the education community are around equality and fairness for those schools who are inspected in the weeks following changes to the framework. It is not just or fair that these schools have a greater risk of a required improvement judgement whilst inspectors learn to apply framework changes in a consistent and reliable manner. However, our experience suggests that this is indeed the case.

We have attended every inspection, tracked every outcome, spoken to inspectors, and trawled through their interpretation and application of the framework to the point that once again we know how to play the inspection game. As always, the headteachers have been fantastic. Listening to and accepting advice, engaging in support, and attending training to ensure they to understand the rules of engagement.

With that in mind here are the top five buzz words from inspections in our schools this term:

  • Pupils – Relieved that this is in the top 5, it is after all the reason we exist.
  • Curriculum – The sequencing and cohesion of the wider curriculum towards defined end points is a reoccurring theme, alongside levels of ambition for example “Leaders have carefully designed an ambitious curriculum that is right for their pupils” and “Leaders have improved the curriculum by identifying what pupils need to know and when knowledge should be taught.” - (Ofsted inspection feedbacks in autumn 2022.)
  • Knowledge – This all comes down to pupils knowing and remembering more and how progression documents clearly set out the knowledge and skills that pupils will learn in each subject as they progress through the school.
  • Support - This links to comments about whether suitable adjustments are made to make sure disadvantaged pupils and those with additional needs learn the same curriculum as others, experience success and achieve their best. Phrases such as “feel well supported”, “identifies and supports to make substantial progress”, and “support to help pupils catch up in their reading” give you a flavour of the priorities.
  • Leaders – It appears leaders are finally receiving some well-deserved recognition for their positive impact on schools and the life chances of pupils within. After all, “A teacher affects eternity; they can never tell where their influence stops” - Henry Adams. There is constant reference in reports to leaders at all levels (note the shift from senior leaders) and their impact across the key areas of provision. Interestingly, improvement and learning, specifically prior learning and how it builds over time, have been knocked off top posts.

The Education People is the chosen school improvement provider for Kent. Our advisory team know their schools well and schools have access to a comprehensive range of local authority ad traded inspection support. As a result, inspection outcomes in our primary schools are significantly above national averages with no local authority primary school in Kent judged to be inadequate under this inspection framework (March 2022).

For more information and further support: 

About the Author

Alongside her role as Divisional Lead for Education Improvement, Tel is also Head of Service for Primary School Improvement here at The Education People. Since moving on from her role as headteacher, Tel has gained a huge amount of experience supporting schools as an Improvement Adviser, Acting Principal and Senior Adviser in Kent and beyond. 

Her experience doesn't stop there, Tel also has a proven track record of supporting schools in driving quick and sustainable improvements in her roles as consultant headteacher and education consultant across a range of education providers.