The new framework puts the curriculum centre stage of Ofsted inspections. Ofsted has said that its inspectors will, “spend less time looking at exam results and test data, and more time considering how a nursery, school, college or other education provider has achieved their results.“The NEU thinks that the new framework has been badly prepared, with poor research, inadequate internal scrutiny and an unrealistic timetable for implementation. The framework requires Ofsted inspectors to make fair and consistent judgments about complex issues of educational quality in a short space of time; Ofsted’s own research casts doubt on the feasibility of this expectation.

Under the new framework, there will be four key judgements:

Quality of education will replace the current ‘outcomes for pupils/learners’ and ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ judgements with a broader, single judgement. Under quality of education there will be three categories, intent, implementation and impact of the curriculum.

In gathering evidence about curriculum implementation, Ofsted inspectors will engage in what the inspectorate has termed ‘deep dives’, involving observation of teaching and scrutiny work or training and assessment of pupils/learners’ workbooks/work in a limited number of subjects. The focus for these ‘deep dives’ will be in part determined through a 90-minute ‘phone conversation with the senior role holder, as well as a request for documentary information, before the inspection. The NEU is particularly concerned that inspectors will be expected to make judgements for subjects for which they have no experience, knowledge or skill. For example, an English specialist may be judging the quality of education of a secondary school through ‘deep dives’ in mathematics, physics and chemistry.  Book scrutiny is in any case a non-standardised form of assessment and is deeply contested as a robust evidence tool.

The ‘personal development, welfare and behaviour’ judgement in the current framework will be split into two distinct areas, behaviour and attitudes and personal development. This change recognises the difference between behaviour and discipline in schools and colleges, and pupil/learners’ wider personal development and their opportunities to grow as active, healthy and engaged citizens.

The leadership and management judgement is about how leaders, managers and those responsible for governance ensure that the education that the school provides has a positive impact on all its pupils. One of the important factors within the judgement is, “the extent to which leaders take into account the workload and well-being of their staff, while also developing and strengthening the quality of the workforce”. An overall effectiveness judgement will continue to be awarded, and all judgements will be made using the current four-point grading scale.

The NEU is concerned about the capacity of Ofsted inspectors to inspect the curriculum in the terms set out in the new inspection framework, because of the complex judgements they will be expected to make in subjects/age phases out of their experience and expertise.

NEU concerns about the EIF:

  • With its continued use of inspection judgements, colleges will be doing work to please Ofsted, rather than engaging in the professional review which would support learners.

  • Data will still be a key factor in its inspection judgements.
  • It will continue to demoralise committed, dedicated and capable staff – while making leadership roles both vulnerable and unattractive.
  • It will favour knowledge accumulation over the acquisition of skills.

NEU recently surveyed members about the proposals for the EIF. 87% were concerned that this short timescale will add to their own workload, and 93% were concerned that it would add to colleagues' workload.