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Ofsted Changes – Subtle or Not?

Key Points Relating to Ofsted School Inspections for 2016/2017

There are a number of changes to the Handbook which came into being from September 2016. Ofsted, on their website state that the changes are minimal:

“The minor revisions made in the section 5 handbook are mainly to reflect the latest education policy. There are also a few small points of clarification on some aspects in the framework to make sure that our information for inspectors and schools is as clear as possible.”

However, as often happens, there are some important things hidden in the detail and schools need to be sure they know exactly what they are. The key messages surrounding inspection for 2016/17 are as follows.


When Ofsted consider achievement, the most weight will be given to progress particularly from pupils’ different starting points. The most significance will be given to current pupils in all year groups but inspectors will weigh up how this compares to recent cohorts.

For most inspections the key focus groups will be:

  • Disadvantaged – including the most able disadvantaged
  • Most able
  • Pupils who have Special Educational Needs and/or Disability
  • Pupils who need to catch up

However, these will not exclude other groups if inspection evidence suggests underperformance in a different group or groups.

Ofsted will not ask schools to share its assessment information in any way other than it uses in its normal day to day operations.  It will also consider wider information than just data. Hence, observation, the scrutiny of pupils’ work, discussions with pupils, interviews with teachers and school leaders, parental feedback, information on the school web site, etc., will continue to play a significant role in inspection.

“Breadth across the curriculum will be crucial.”

Pupils’ academic and vocational achievements ‘across the curriculum’ will be crucial, indeed, the new handbook mentions ‘across the curriculum’ in far more places than before (see HMCI Monthly Commentary May 2016).

Particular note will be given to the impact of literacy and the impact of mathematical knowledge, understanding and skills on outcomes across the curriculum. Furthermore, inspectors will explore whether strong progress in English and Mathematics is at the expense of progress across the other subjects. In short, progress must be strong in a wide range of subjects, including English and mathematics, for outcomes to be good.

As a result of research and analysis, in May this year Sir Michael Wilshaw commented on the study of science and foreign languages in primary schools and their relatively poor provision comparatively:


Schools need to be sure that their curriculum offers breadth and challenge for all groups and is not concentrated only on English and maths or core subjects and that there is clear evidence of progress across the curriculum.

Disadvantaged Pupils

“Schools should strive to ensure that the progress of its disadvantaged pupils from different starting points matches or is improving towards that of other pupils nationally from those same starting points.”

In relation to Disadvantaged pupils, schools will be expected to have a clear rationale of the Pupil Premium funding to meet different needs, detailing barriers to learning, how the school seeks to overcome these and why it chose this form of action(s).

Ofsted will compare school disadvantaged performance only with national figures for other pupils, the non-disadvantaged pupils with similar starting points. In historic data, inspectors will not consider in school gaps between disadvantaged pupils and others. Schools must look closely if the progress of their disadvantaged pupils with high, medium or low starting points has fallen further behind that of other pupils nationally with similar starting points.

If inspectors recognise a weakness in provision/outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, they are likely to recommend a Pupil Premium review.

From September 2016, maintained schools are required to publish their Pupil Premium Strategy online. It must include:

  • the amount of their pupil premium allocation;
  • a summary of the main barriers faced by eligible pupils;
  • how the allocation is to be spent to address those barriers and the reasons for that approach;
  • how impact will be measured;
  • the date of the next review of the strategy.

Schools must also publish for the previous academic year:

  • how the allocation was spent;
  • its impact on eligible and other pupils.

Under Inspectors’ planning and preparation the amended text now includes:

The planning will be informed by analysis of: …

  • information on the school’s website (taking into account current government requirements for maintained schools and academy funding agreements and non-statutory guidance) including its pupil premium strategy (including rationale and evaluation).

An updated guide to effective pupil premium reviews was issued on 5 May 2016 by the Teaching Schools Council (TSC) and National College for Teaching and Leadership.

It sets out a simple, six-step process for a review. It asks reviewers to ensure that the needs of all disadvantaged pupils are supported, including the most able and those who are looked after or have left care.

Pupils Who Have Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities

“Ofsted will not compare SEN group performance with that of SEN pupils nationally.”

Ofsted will consider the progress of pupils who have Special Educational Needs and or Disabilities in relation to the progress of all pupils nationally with similar starting points.

Ofsted will also compare SEND pupils’ attendance/absence/exclusion records with non-SEND nationally. The SEN & Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years sets out what schools/colleges/Early Years providers must and should do. Hence, we would advise schools to look closely at what it must do and those things it should do, making sure there is a clear rationale behind its implementation of the code of practice.

Overall Implications for Schools

Outlined above are the key issues. In addition, there are revisions to governance, pupil and staff consultation processes and new guidance on Schools Causing Concern.

School Leaders and governors need to ensure they have secure and up to date knowledge of the revision to the Framework, noting any specific changes to the evaluation schedule and descriptors.

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