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6.16 Along with making information and data about schools publicly available, the publication of inspection reports is an important part of making schools accountable to parents. Ofsted remains a highly respected part of the education system. The robust independent challenge of inspection can confirm school self evaluation, boost staff morale and stimulate further improvement96.
6.17 However, in recent years, Ofsted has been required to focus too much on inspecting schools against government policies, at the expense of a proper focus on the core function of schools: teaching and learning. We will ask Ofsted to return to focusing its attention on the core of teaching and learning, observing more lessons and taking a more proportionate approach – devoting more time and attention to weaker schools and less to stronger.
6.18 The current Ofsted framework inspects schools against 27 headings – many reflecting previous government initiatives. In place of this framework, Ofsted will consult on a new framework with a clear focus on just four things – pupil achievement, the quality of teaching, leadership and management, and the behaviour and safety of pupils. The new inspection framework will help to make sure that there is a better focus on the needs of all pupils, including the needs of pupils with Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.
6.19 This new framework will come into force in Autumn 2011, subject to legislation. It will allow inspectors to get back to spending more of their time observing lessons, giving a more reliable assessment of the quality of education children are receiving. The new framework will not require schools to have completed a self evaluation form, allowing governing bodies and head teachers to choose for themselves how to evaluate their work.
6.20 Ofsted and the Department will work together to make sure that we are setting the same expectations of schools. These will reflect the starting point of pupils at the school and expected levels of progress during schooling.
6.21 Ofsted will adopt a highly proportionate approach to inspection. Since outstanding schools generally have robust systems in place to support their continued excellent performance, Ofsted will cease routine inspection of schools and sixth form colleges previously judged to be outstanding. Subject to legislation, we will exempt primary schools, secondary schools and sixth form colleges which have been judged to be outstanding from routine inspection from Autumn 2011 and re-inspect only if there is evidence of decline or widening attainment gaps. We plan to extend the same principle to outstanding special schools and PRUs. As risk assessment of these schools will be more complex, we will work with Ofsted to identify suitable triggers which might indicate a need for re-inspection.
6.22 The weaker the school, the more frequent the monitoring: schools judged to be inadequate will receive termly monitoring visits to assess improvement. In order to help with this proportional approach, Ofsted will differentiate within the broad ‘satisfactory’ category, between schools which are improving and have good capacity to improve further, and schools which are stuck. Schools which are satisfactory but making little progress will be more likely to receive a monitoring visit from Ofsted within the next year, and may be judged inadequate if they have not improved.
6.23 A ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ judgement is a source of pride for everyone associated with a school. Where a school feels that its last Ofsted judgement is out of date and does not reflect the improvement it has made since its last inspection, it should be able to request an inspection. Therefore, subject to legislation, all schools will be able to request an Ofsted inspection from Autumn 2011. Ofsted will be able to charge schools for this service, and will decide when and how many ‘requested’ inspections it carries out each year, and how it will prioritise requests.
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