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The new inspection framework in practice

31 October 2019

5 Top Tips

By David Corke, Director of Policy and Research, Association of Colleges

There is a general view forming from nominees and principals that the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) is much more grounded, authentic and reliable as it starts from the perspective of the student and judge’s curriculum intent as it applies to each individual.

1. The process

Most inspection evidence is emerging from the deep dives, however, the four high level meetings on strategy, outcomes, governance and safeguarding are still important. The high-level meetings are typically held very early during the inspection process, the inspection team then use the information presented in these meetings to check that the intent is being implemented.

Data is still important, but it doesn’t have the same weight that it used to under the Common Inspection Framework (CIF). Inspectors are still asking for data, just much less of it and are less focused on achievement rates and benchmarks.

So far, there has not been much room to negotiate the deep dive areas selected by the lead inspector. Using the rule of thumb of biggest, best and worst it is straight forward to make an educated guess as to where inspectors might look – just remember to take in to account learner numbers, progress measures and cash.

Whilst there may not be much room to negotiate where inspectors start looking, once inspectors have finished with the biggest best and worst, they are communicating very clearly where they are moving on to and why. Typically, they are seeing about half of the provision within a college.

Many nominees and curriculum leads are finding that inspectors are consciously trying to avoid using judgemental language, and reserving decisions for much later in the process. Nominees are also reporting back that teachers and assessors are responding well with inspectors interrupting sessions to speak to students.

Nominees in larger colleges have nominated ‘campus nominees’ to aid communication and co-ordination.

2. The three I’s: intent, implementation and impact

So far, in relation to the three I’s, inspectors have looked at:

  • How governors articulate curriculum intent, including sub-contracted provision.
  • Evidence of how we implement our intent.
  • How curriculum leads articulate their rationale for the way they sequence topics.
  • Sequencing and scaffolding are often referred to.
  • How we plan to develop knowledge over the long term.
  • The impact of the curriculum on individual learners from their various starting points.
  • The experience of final year students.
  • The journeys of our high needs learners and the story of their progress.

3. Personal development, behaviour and attitudes

Inspectors have been keen to understand each colleges approach to student development, rather than judging it against a perfect or theoretical model. They also appreciate that the impact of some elements of personal development might not be realised for quite some time. Inspectors have also been questioning learners around their understanding of current affairs.

Student attendance has been looked at in context and inspectors are mindful of behaviour and the broader learning environment all the time.

Students were generally much more involved in the inspection process.

4. Overall

In terms of staff workload and welfare, inspectors seem aware of the workload and financial pressures faced by colleges and focused on practical matters such as assessor caseloads. Many reported that inspection felt ‘firm but fair’, requiring us (teachers and nominees) to ask tough questions about the college in terms of the art and craft of teaching and learning. The findings have felt authentic and grounded, making good use of deep dives and work scrutiny.

The wealth of information emerging from inspection is hard to keep up with for the nominee and curriculum leads, thought needs to be given to how this can be captured and shared.

Concerns remain around how to fairly judge inspections for larger institutions under the EIF (a concern that existed under the CIF).

5. Issues for consideration:

  • Is there a need for support and/or a scribe for the nominee to help the college keep up with the evidence?
  • Could more extensive feedback be shared at the end of inspection, especially where it might not appear in the final report?
  • Issues with the inspection of large colleges and the possibility of campus level grading.
  • The exemption for outstanding provision; should outstanding providers be risk assessed? Will there be at least one inspection per college per five-year cycle? Should it be a full inspection?
  • Could areas graded below ‘good’ be re-inspected where the overall grade is ‘good’?
  • What is the link between inspection, financial performance and financial health? How will this be assessed in future?

Any Questions?

Email David Corke, Director of Policy and Research, Association of Colleges