Interesting data from ofsted

The Regional Director of ofsted spent just over an hour answering questions at a meeting earlier this week of Oxfordshire’s Education Scrutiny Committee. Sadly, neither the press nor any members of the public turned up to hear this interesting and informative exchange of views.

One of the questions posed by the Committee was about schools ranked ‘outstanding’ on previous criteria and whether the judgement will remain when the new Framework, currently out to consultation, comes into force. There doesn’t seem to be a mechanism to reset the dial when there is a major change in the inspection framework.

This question was thrown into sharp focus later this week by ofsted’s publication of inspection outcomes for the autumn term of 2018. This is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/state-funded-schools-inspections-and-outcomes-as-at-31-december-2018

Of the 102 schools classified as ‘exempt’ under the 2011 legislation, that were subject to a full inspection, 12 schools (12%) remained outstanding, 50 (49%) declined to good, 35 (34%) declined to requires improvement and five (5%) declined to inadequate. The fact that four out ten of these schools declined to either ‘requires improvement’ or the category of ‘inadequate’, in five cases, must be of concern. A further 15 ‘outstanding’ schools had a short inspection and, thus, remained with the same outcome.

Ofsted also commented that the number of schools that had improved from ‘requires improvement’ had declined, compared with previous years. However, ofsted noted that ‘This may be a sign that the remaining schools have more entrenched problems and will be harder to turn around.’

Ofsted has also looked at schools in the government’s opportunity areas that have received extra cash outside of the normal funding arrangements. As might be expected, there was a 10% different between the percentage of schools rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ in these areas and the national percentage of such schools. As ofsted observed, ‘The lower percentage of good and outstanding schools in opportunity areas is to be expected, as the areas were chosen on the basis of the problems they were experiencing.’

No doubt, at some point in the future, ofsted will comment on both the use of funding in these areas and the difference it makes to schools outside those areas, but facing similar or even more extreme challenges.

In the present complex structure of governance, the lack of local robust school improvement teams offering help to all schools, whether maintained, standalone academies, small or even large MATs means that ofsted can often only inspect after a school has begun to decline. Good local school improvement teams, funded across all schools, might well be able to prevent some declines from happening. MATs can make this happen as they can top slice their schools, but other schools cannot as easily do so.

When the country finally emerges from its Brexit travails, this is but one of many issues that will need to be addressed. One can but hope that such an outcome will be decided sooner rather than later.

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Employing NQTs

Recently, I asked Ofsted if they could provide me with a list of schools not allowed to employ NQTs, following an inspection of the school, so I could have a look at a range of job advertisements to see how the recommendation was being presented to possible applicants, including NQTs. Following an FOI request, Ofsted informed me on Friday that

‘… we do not record collated information relating to the appointment of NQTs. Each inspection is regarded as a standalone inspection event, and statements regarding the appointment of NQTs are made in the individual reports and subsequent monitoring letters for each inspection.’

They suggested that I use the published data on inspections, last updated to August 2018.

The appointment of NQTs differs between maintained schools and academies because maintained schools provide a period of induction. Thus, with regard to maintained schools, induction may not be served in a school that has been judged to require special measures, unless HMCI has given permission in writing. School Inspection Handbook paras 98 and para 121.

For all schools, a school placed in special measures following a full Section 5 inspection, the report must include a judgement (or recommendation in the case of academies and presumably free schools) about whether a school should be permitted to employ NQTs. School Inspection Handbook Section 8 para 173. This judgement can be changed at subsequent monitoring reports.

Now this raises two interesting issues in my mind. Firstly, maintained schools declared inadequate these days must normally become an academy and part of a multi-academy trust or committee. The inadequate school is closed, and no Ofsted report is available for the new school. Presumably, the new academy is perfectly entitled to hire NQTs from day one, since the new school has no recommendation resulting from an inspection report. This seems a little concerning. In one case the report on the closing schools said ‘strongly recommend do not appoint NQTs’. Should the new academy recognise and act on this judgement?

The second issue emerged from looking into what is happening on the ground. Viewing records for some of these schools converting to become an academy after an ‘inadequate’ judgement by Ofsted, has identified a concern about the amount of time an academy emerging from an ‘inadequate’ judgement on a maintained school is taking to receive an inspection report. The school that received an inspection report ‘strongly recommending do not employ NQTs’ seemingly had not received a published monitoring report more than a year after it opened as an academy.

A third issue is that not all inspection reports declaring a school ‘inadequate’ appear to mention in the report anything about employing NQTs. Almost half of the inspection reports on secondary schools in London identified as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors that I viewed didn’t seem to mention anything about employing NQTs in the report. That’s also a worry. Indeed, recording use of Pupil Premium seemed of more concern in reports that statements about employing NQTs.

Arising from this is a fourth issue. If a school cannot employ an NQT, should it be allowed to employ any unqualified teachers? There must be a presumption that if a school cannot support NQTs, then they also cannot support an even less qualified person in their classrooms?

Am I worrying unduly or can readers tell me of instances where they didn’t know Ofsted had said ‘don’t employ NQTs’, but the schools had gone ahead and employed them.  Did it work out?