6th June 2019
Dear Ms Spielman,
You may recall that on behalf of the Headteachers Roundtable and ‘Worth Less?’ campaign groups, we wrote to you with concerns and proposed amendments to the new Ofsted Framework. We were disappointed that the points raised by so many headteachers only elicited an automated response.
We recognise that there are some strengths within the new Framework and welcome a new emphasis on curricular provision and delivery rather than the previous over reliance on the blunt instrument of data/outcomes. The new Framework, however, does not address many significant and ongoing concerns.
With this in mind, we thought posing a series of questions will help to generate wider understanding amongst headteachers about the work and purpose of Ofsted. They are as follows:
1. Does the inspectorate believe that there is any connection between a school’s funding levels and its capacity to offer high quality educational provision? With each report will Ofsted publish the per pupil funding received by an individual school and set it against other relevant contextual information.
2. Does Ofsted’s recent review of school funding identify the severe and hugely variable financial constraints schools are operating under? If it does, what will be the advice issued to inspectors and the mechanisms used to ensure schools facing financial constraints are fairly and accurately judged?
3. If headteachers were unable to offer the curriculum breadth that may arise due to a lack of funding or a lack of specialist teachers in areas such as Computer Science, Science, Maths and English, would they be penalised during an inspection?
4. The continued retention of grades is deeply problematic. If Ofsted wishes to enter into a dialogue with the profession; is it prepared to release all evidence on which judgements will be made, un-redacted and in real-time, during the inspection process?
5. Given the Russell Group’s call for the EBacc to be reconsidered and its new Informed Choices website will Ofsted now remove all references to the EBacc qualifications and targets from its framework?
6. As an independent body, why is Ofsted drawing on the Department for Education’s definition of ‘cultural capital’?
7. Why is there no requirement, for the curriculum at Key Stage 3 to be balanced? When requiring the Key Stage 3 curriculum to be “broad and rich” what does “rich” mean in curriculum terms; where is there a published objective definition of the term that can be assessed on a scale of 1 (outstanding) to 4 (inadequate)?
8. What evidence and assurances can school leaders be given that the behaviour judgement will not be flawed due to a lack of reliability in evidence collected, involving a limited number of conversations; over a very limited time period (30 hours); at one point in a school year?
9. As schools are going to be judged on the destinations that their students gain at the end of their school journey, will the absence of external careers support be taken into account?
10. How will Ofsted judge the ability and capacity of schools to deliver safeguarding matters if their school is located in a Local Authority where children’s services are judged to be ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’? How will Ofsted contextualise these circumstances for those schools?
11. Against a background of severe Local Authority funding cuts and variable funding for SEND issues, how will Ofsted judge provision for children with High Needs and Special Education Needs in a consistent way across 154 Local Authorities and Boroughs?
12. How will the inspectorate ensure that schools who have disproportionately high numbers of pupils with SEND or from disadvantaged backgrounds will be fairly and accurately judged?
Whilst others may have additional questions, we believe clear answers to the above would be a useful starting point for further dialogue, especially as Ofsted has decided to retain a grading system in the belief this will ensure parents are well-informed.
Thank you in anticipation of your response.
Stephen Tierney Jules White
Headteachers’ Roundtable ‘Worth Less?’
Headteachers’ Roundtable and ‘Worth Less?’ are grassroots organisations. They provide an important mechanism to represent the opinions of those professionals who have to deliver on the aspirations and strategic intent of the Department for Education and Ofsted. Our collective views are designed to complement the work of our professional associations and other influential contributors.