Category Archives: quality assurance and inspection


No recruitment of lay inspectors

Recruitment and selection of inspectors rigorous and fair according to Ofsted

Ofsted has been under attack recently on a number of fronts, but it would be wrong to assume that it is sitting on its hands or is complacent. One charge against Ofsted is that it  has contracted too few good teachers and Heads as inspectors and there has been some criticism about using outside contractors.  However, Ofsted has recently changed its approach to recruitment in order to attract more senior leaders, such as serving headteachers, to inspection roles. Sir Michael Wilshaw says that ‘This new approach will enable current heads to work part-time as inspectors for up to two years, on secondment. Ofsted has recently recruited 50 Associate Inspectors under this scheme from both good and outstanding schools.’

Once recruited, HMI undertake a six-month probation period and ’are provided with comprehensive and high-quality training to equip them for their role. Trainees are subject to regular evaluation and feedback.’ According to Ofsted, ‘Established HMI have access to a wide range of professional development opportunities, including a number of dedicated national training events and conferences on specific topics.’

Significantly, Ofsted no longer employs Lay Inspectors, but currently holds contracts with three Inspection Service Providers (ISPs) who deliver school inspection services through Additional Inspectors (AI). The ISPs currently holding contracts with Ofsted are CfBT Education Trust, Serco Education and Children’s Services and Tribal Group.

Schedule 6 of each contract sets out the obligations of each ISP in relation to the  recruitment and selection of AIs who undertake schools inspection. The Schedule states that recruitment and selection procedures must be rigorous and applied fairly.  The Schedule clearly defines the role of AIs as well as the qualifications, experience and essential competencies that they must hold.

ISPs are required to provide AI training, and Ofsted works closely with them to ensure both the quality and consistency of approach. Each AI must be signed off by an Ofsted HMI as part of the training process

Source -Letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw to Lord Storey 31 March 2014


The NASUWT wants  inspected teachers to report on the quality of  Ofsted  inspectors , following an inspection, and to provide on line feedback


Some limited progress but troubling regional variations remain


There is ,as we know, and are often reminded,  a large gap in educational attainment between children from richer homes and those from poorer homes, as measured by eligibility for free school meals.(not always regarded, by the way, as the most reliable measure of deprivation). Significantly, narrowing this gap is seen as the Holy Grail in education and has largely defeated successive governments. Her Majesty’s chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wishaw   accepts too that this is a major challenge and that there are huge   and unacceptable variations in the attainment gap between pupils   in different local authorities. He said as much   when he described our school system as “a tale of two nations.”He added  that the system is “divided into lucky and unlucky children.”  But the lot of disadvantaged children is not predetermined.

Although most acknowledge that teaching is now attracting some very bright graduates concerns remain over the quality of teaching overall but particularly the quality of teaching and teachers in disadvantaged areas.

A Sutton Trust report, in 2011, highlighted just how important the quality of teaching is in closing this gap. It stated:“The effects of high-quality teaching are especially significant for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds: over a school year, these pupils gain 1.5 years’ worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared with 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers. In other words, for poor pupils the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher is a whole year’s learning.” That shows the significance of raising teaching standards and ensuring that they stay high.

The government’s policy on raising attainment and closing this gap has several threads.

Firstly, the Pupil Premium, worth around £2.5 billion. The PP means a yearly uplift, for each disadvantaged young person who receives it, of £1,300 in primary education and £935 in secondary education In some schools, 80% or 90% of the young people are entitled to the pupil premium.

The government points out that the performance of disadvantaged pupils has improved across the country, since the coalition Government came to power in 2010, and it improved before that. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals who achieve the expected standard in maths at the end of primary school has risen from 66% to 74% since 2010, and the gap between those children and their peers has narrowed by 4 percentage points. The picture is similar at key stage 4. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals achieving at least five A* to C grade GCSEs, including English and maths, has risen from 31% in 2010 to 38% in 2013. Disadvantaged young people in London are now more than 10 percentage points more likely to achieve five A* to C grades including English and maths than those in the next highest-performing region.(thanks largely, but not exclusively, to the London Challenge). The gap between disadvantaged young people and their peers is narrowest in London. However, there is a variable picture throughout England and something of a post code lottery. In  14 local authorities, the attainment of free school meal pupils, at key stage 4 is more than 10 percentage points below the national average for such pupils.  In 12 local authorities, attainment at the end of key stage 4 for pupils eligible for free school meals was actually  lower in 2013 than in 2010. And as the Shadow Schools  Minister Kevin Brennan, recently pointed out in a debate (25 February) in  England last year, the GCSE attainment gap widened in 72 out of 152 local authority areas. In 66 areas, it was larger than it was two years previously. In England as a whole, the gap was 26.7% last year, up from 26.4% in 2011-12. So the challenge very much remains in place.

The government sees the Teach First programme as important in narrowing the attainment gap. Bright, motivated graduates are placed in schools after brief training and on-going mentorship , mainly in disadvantaged areas and the scheme is being extended. Indeed, the scheme  is now one of the top graduate recruiters.

Ofsted is addressing regional under performance through its regional inspection arrangements, with focused inspections of local authorities and groups of schools. It is carrying out inspections, not only of schools, but of the school improvement function.  Schools that are not narrowing the gap will in future  not be able to achieve an‘ outstanding’ Ofsted rating. The chief inspector plans to ask challenging questions of local authorities and others about their contribution to school improvement although local authorities complain that much of their previous resource has been diverted to support the academies expansion. Wilshaw wants to  to inspect  chains of schools but so far this is being resisted by ministers, though it is clear that some chains are more effective than others at raising attainment.

David Laws, the schools Minister, is targeting schools and local authorities where the attainment of disadvantaged pupils is unacceptably low. He recently wrote to 214 schools—115 primary and 99 secondary—with the poorest value-added progress among disadvantaged pupils.Value added measures are thought to flush out coasting schools.

Teaching School Alliances are now seen as vital to drive improvement, along with   peer support networks. Currently, 345 teaching schools cover around 4,800 other schools. In September, the Secretary of State announced an expansion to reach a total of 600 alliances by 2016.

And leadership is also seen as vital, although getting the best Heads and Deputies into the most disadvantaged areas can be a big challenge. (one distinct  advantage that London has  always had is that it is  easier to attract good teachers and heads to the capital, than many other areas . Teachers’ partners and spouses of teachers are also more likely generally to find jobs in  London than elsewhere, adding to its appeal ).

From September 2015, the talented leaders programme announced by the Deputy Prime Minister will start by matching 100 head teachers with underperforming schools in areas that struggle to attract and develop outstanding school leaders.

However, the challenge remains and the wide gap in performances between different local authorities in this area remains troubling.



What will they do and what is the timescale?


The Government has been attacked over the perceived lack of accountability in the schools system. With a majority of secondary schools now ‘autonomous’ academies  and directly accountable to the Secretary of State, critics have suggested that some form of middle tier is needed to ensure that struggling schools are spotted early on and given support.  Most academies are singletons, and not part of a chain. Chains  are thought  to be more accountable and more likely to drive up standards. The government has responded to these concerns by announcing that   eight full-time Regional Schools Commissioners will be appointed  this summer.

The RSCs will be classed as civil servants in the Department for Education, on fixed five year contracts.  They are expected to take up post in time for the 2014/15 academic year.

RSCs will undertake functions on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education. These are expected to include:

 Monitoring performance and intervening to secure improvement in underperforming academies;

Taking decisions on the creation of new academies; and

 supporting the national schools commissioner to ensure that there are sufficient sponsors to meet local need.

The RSCs will fulfil this role for all academies, including where academies and free schools offer 16-19 provision. The head teacher boards supporting RSCs will comprise of local education leaders, including headteachers from academies rated as outstanding by Ofsted.  Around six of these outstanding heads will support each RSC. According to the government ‘This will ensure that skilled academy leaders have a voice in the development of the academy system in their region. The remit of the boards will not extend to further education or sixth form colleges and, therefore, we do not anticipate automatic representation for their Principals.’

The costs of RSCs  have yet to be fully determined However, any costs will obviously have to  be met within existing departmental administration budgets, which are being cut overall by 50% in real terms by 2015.


Lord Nash letter




People have a tendency to want to avoid a loss – more so than we want to receive an equivalent gain – a tendency known as loss aversion. Behavioural scientists have known about this for some time.

Imagine that teachers   were told at the beginning of the year that in order to be awarded a bonus of say £3,000 at the year end, they will have to show continuous improvement throughout the year and meet certain clear goals in terms of their CPD. The teacher would have points docked from their assessment when his or her performance or achievement was inadequate, and so teachers would work hard to stay on track to receive their end of year bonus.  How might this affect the respective teachers effort, expectations, performance, and assessment relative to current practice? Another variant might be paying teachers in advance and then asking for a proportion of the money back if the teacher, or their pupils, perform poorly according to transparent  metrics.

Research in the States doesn’t seem to support positive effects for performance related pay on student outcomes, linked just to test scores. And, indeed, linking performance related pay to test results carries with it some perverse incentives and is not necessarily very fair. Classroom observation is also seen as an unreliable method of assessing merit. So might it be worth listening more to what  behavioural scientists are telling us?




Can Academy Trusts award contracts to companies in which their Trustees have a stake ?Yes but no profit


All academy trusts are required to openly procure any externally sourced services, including those related to their trustees.

When a business controlled by or belonging to a trustee bids for a contract the academy trust must consider if that service is the most appropriate for the academy and offers the best value for money. If the academy trust decides to award the contract to the trustee-related service, that business must deliver its services at cost, with no element of profit.

 There have been some questions raised in the media suggesting that academies might have lax financial accountability.  There is  little  evidence though that suggests  that academies have an easier  financial accountability regime than maintained schools. There have always been cases in the  maintained sector of financial irregularities.   They still remain across all  schools, rare. Indeed the government argues that in terms of financial accountability because academies  effectively wear three hats- as companies, charities and public bodies- their financial accountability is more robust than in maintained schools. Academy trusts are constituted as companies limited by guarantee, so are subject to the full rigour of the Companies Act. This means that, unlike maintained schools, academies are required to file independently audited accounts.

But it is clear that, despite all  this, a few of  those running  academy schools  have a rather  self-serving mind set when it comes to  using their autonomous status. Contracts should be put out to open tender, best value must be the lodestar.  And its probably not  best practice to employ family and friends in the school(s) you are running even if  the recruitment process is transparent.    The government must be careful that the academies/free school brand is not undermined in the same way that the Charter school  brand  in the States  has been ,where  some excellent schools and chains have co-existed with others that have failed  to measure up both in terms of business  practice and student outcomes.


Just 2% of schools rated ‘inadequate’

The proportion of schools that have been judged ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted (judged at their most recent inspection) is 20% (4,286). Those rated ‘good -‘58% (12,346). ‘Satisfactory’/ ‘Requires improvement’-19% (4057); Inadequate 2% (497)

As at 31 August 2013-Ofsted- HOC -Deposited Paper-30 October 2O13



New CFBT Education Trust report offers some pointers, following school visits


In 2011 the CfBT Education Trust report ‘ To the next level: good schools   becoming outstanding’ analysed the processes by which  ‘good’ schools move  up to ‘outstanding’, as rated  by Ofsted . (see link below)

This new study To the next level: improving secondary school teaching to outstanding complements and builds on the  previous report.  It focuses on schools that either achieve and maintain high-quality teaching or succeed in rapidly improving the effectiveness of lessons. It explores the question of teaching excellence through observation in schools that have been on a journey towards excellence, together with interviews with experienced university teacher educators and a review of existing literature.

The report considered the common characteristics demonstrated by excellent teachers in their classrooms on a day-to-day basis. The study is set in the changing context of school improvement, which is putting a renewed emphasis on the quality of teaching and especially subject-specific pedagogy.

Interviews were conducted with experts in university education departments to shed more light on the precise features of very effective subject pedagogy. These experts confirmed the complex interplay of skills, knowledge and personal qualities to be found in the practice of effective teachers.

They especially emphasised the importance of these teachers’ awareness of the needs of individual learners and of the way they develop students’ conceptual understanding and skills within lessons and during longer units of work.

Nine secondary schools, selected for their success in improving teaching and learning, were visited for the study. Senior leaders, heads of subject departments, effective subject teachers and their students offered their views on why and how these teachers achieved their success. Sample lessons from each of the nine schools are briefly described, followed by more detailed case studies of five of the schools, tracing something of their improvement journey and philosophy.

The visits illustrate how schools with the most mature practice explore differences in pedagogy from subject to subject and advance the role of subject leaders. Lesson observation and study are a permanent part of a self-critical culture in these schools. The schools share two common characteristics: strong visionary leadership; and effective, integrated systems for regular quality review, performance management of teachers and associated continuous professional development.

The report draws together the findings from the literature, the interviews and the school visits to identify a number of key characteristics of success for improving teaching. See below for these key characteristics of success, and how they are manifested in schools with more mature systems and cultures.


Characteristics of success

• Inspirational leadership

• Accountability of teachers for the school’s success

• Shared expectations of quality

• A major emphasis on self-evaluation

• School-wide assessment for learning

• Teacher development mainly  in-house


Schools with more mature systems and cultures

• Delegated leadership

• Lesson observation as a shared enquiry

• Effective teaching: customised within subjects and understood within a longer timeframe

• Instinctive and continuous self-evaluation

• Excellent assessment

• A perspective beyond the school

Such schools are those which have been performing well for some years, with established, stable senior leaders and staff at lower levels, and with mature systems for monitoring, evaluation and teacher development.

The report makes recommendations for moving to the highest stage in teaching quality,  based on the findings of this small-scale study. These recommendations focus on:

• developing subject leaders

• making time for subject teams to meet and plan

• being subject-specific about pedagogy

• establishing longer units of work as the standard currency of scrutiny

• making judicious use of student self-assessment

• seeing the school as a contributor to local networks.

To the Next Level- good schools becoming outstanding’; Research Report; 2011-CFBT Education Trust- Peter Dougill ,Mike Raleigh ,Roy Blatchford, Lyn Fryer Dr Carol Robinson, John Richmond


To the next level: improving secondary teaching to outstanding; Research Report; 2013-CFBT Education Trust- Peter Daw , Carol Robinson


See also Tony McAleavy of CFBT Education Trust


Note: The research was led for Owen Education by Peter Daw. Carol Robinson conducted the review of UK research literature. Peter Daw conducted the interviews with university staff and made some of the visits to sample schools. Other school visits were carried out by Alan Howe and Helen Howard



Ofsted currently has no explicit powers to inspect academy chains

But much will be expected from Chains


Sir Michael Wilshaw told the Select Committee recently (13 February) that he thinks Ofsted should have powers to inspect Academy chains . He also believes the DfE has accepted the need for this. Indeed he doesn’t see why Academy chains shouldn’t be subject to some sort of performance table as LAs are. Wilshaw said “We should inspect academy chains as well to make sure it’s equitable with LAs. I’ve made that clear to the Secretary of State  and it’s been accepted”

David Laws, the schools Minister of State, in a PQ on 10 April, said ‘Ofsted does not have an explicit power to inspect groups to which academies belong but has a duty (section 5 of the Education Act 2005) to inspect individual schools and a power (section 8 of the Education Act 2005) to inspect individual schools outside of normal inspection schedules. Ofsted may therefore take a view on the support and challenge provided by an overarching body during an individual school inspection.’

In short, academy chains will have to demonstrate in future that they add value in educational terms. It should also be remembered that Ofsted will, in future,  be looking carefully at how schools narrow the achievement gap. In his 5 March 2013, speech David Laws said “Ofsted is also doing much more to hold schools to account for closing the attainment gaps. Solid overall attainment is no longer enough to secure a “Good” or “Outstanding” classification, if there are large performance gaps. The Chief Inspector for Schools and I both agree that a school simply cannot be regarded as “Outstanding” if it is failing its disadvantaged pupils, and he will look at this when he next revises the inspection framework.”



Ofsted may adjust its framework this September giving careers advice a priority


Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector, has given the strongest indication yet that schools’ careers provision could be formally inspected as part of Ofsted’s framework from September.

While inspectors take into account the extent to which “pupils have gained a well-informed understanding” of the career options available to them, there is no separate grade for careers provision. As a result, critics have warned that schools are not being adequately monitored to ensure they comply with their statutory duty to provide pupils with  impartial and objective advice on qualifications and pathways into  training, further and higher education and work. Ofsted is, however, undertaking a ‘thematic’ review of careers advice in schools. Early signs, though, are that the quality and scope of careers advice now on offer in schools varies dramatically.

Appearing before the Commons Education Select Committee on 13 February, Sir Michael stressed the need to “recalibrate the schools framework to focus more on careers advice”.

“It’s really important that impartial advice is given to students on progression routes and I’m not sure that’s the case,” he told MPs. “In our adjustment to our inspection framework from September we will give the inspection of careers advice a priority.”

The Full exchange- Education Select Committee  Hearing 13 February:

Q27 Pat Glass: Can I move off the agenda slightly and ask you a different question? When Matthew Hancock, the Minister, appeared before us recently, we were looking at careers advice and guidance, and he said he was looking to Ofsted to inspect and monitor that. I pointed out that Ofsted had said very clearly that they did not see it as their role to inspect the statutory duty in schools, and asked him if he was going to have a word with you. Has he had a word with you about it?

Sir Michael Wilshaw: Matthew might want to come in here. My view is that it is a good idea to devolve this funding to schools.

Q28 Pat Glass: There is no funding being devolved to schools; the only thing that is being devolved is the statutory duty.

Sir Michael Wilshaw: Yes. It is important that we do monitor it effectively. It is really important that impartial advice is given to students on progression routes, and I am not sure that is the case. In our adjustment to our inspection framework from September, we will give the inspection of careers advice a priority.

An Ofsted spokeswoman later qualified Sir Michaels remarks, telling the  TES (22 February) that the watchdog would not make a final decision on whether to give careers greater prominence in school inspection reports until the summer. “We will draw on the findings of the Ofsted thematic survey, due to be published in the summer, and consider if any changes are required to its inspection frameworks,” she said.


The Government recently announced that schools  careers  duty will be extended to years 8 to 13 from September 2013


The Academies Act 2010 granted academy trusts exempt charity status, making them exempt from registration with and primary regulation by the Charity Commission, from 1 August 2011.  The definition of an exempt charity is one that is  ‘ not regulated by and cannot register with, the Charity Commission.’  So, they have this status because they are regulated by some other body. The Secretary of State for Education is now the principal regulator of academies and oversees their compliance with both charity and education law. But the education secretary has handed over the role of funding distribution and compliance for academies to the Education Funding Agency, which is an executive agency of the DFE.  The Academy Trust signs an agreement (The Funding Agreement)  with the Secretary of State , and so is accountable to the Secretary of State, not the local authority.Indeed independence from local authority control and bureaucracy has been  regarded as one of the attractions of academy status.

But what happens if an academy, autonomous from the LA,  is under performing or failing? This is an area where local authorities in the past have played an  important role, (some, of course,  more effectual  than others), in spotting early  potential problems.

Elizabeth Truss MP, the junior education minister, made it clear recently in a Commons question that  ‘ it is not the role of local authorities (LAs) to intervene in underperforming academies. Academies are autonomous from LAs and their performance is a matter for the Department through the Office of the Schools Commissioner. If a local authority (LA) has concerns about an individual academy, we expect the LA to raise these concerns with the Academy Trust in first instance. If the LA feels that the Academy Trust is failing to take sufficient action concerns can be raised with Ofsted or the Secretary of State.’

Two  questions then arise-if LAs no longer have the powers or budget to oversee academies, how are they, within an autonomous school system , supposed to spot potential problems with schools? And who, apart from Ofsted, is there to fill this  accountability gap?

The difficulty in giving a straight answer to both these questions explains why the debate continues on whether or not some form of  intermediate tier is required between the SOS and schools, as part of the ‘intelligent’ accountability framework.


Sir Michael  Wilshaw , the Chief Inspector,told the Education Select Committee  on 13 February that local authorities should be able to “identify under performance  in academies “They have a powerful part to play in local authority schools, those schools they control, and those outside their direct control,” Sir Michael said.“They identify under-performance in academies. They should be writing to the chair of governors and the sponsor of that academy and contacting the academy division at the department.”He also said that he wanted Ofsted to inspect academy chains and is in talks with the Secretary of State on this issue.