#TellOfsted what needs to change
School Ofsted inspections are changing. Here's what we think really makes a school outstanding.
Ofsted, which inspects schools and colleges across the country, has published new guidelines explaining how schools will be assessed in future. They have launched a consultation on their proposals and want to hear your views.
Why Ofsted inspections matter
Many schools do excellent work on wellbeing and mental health, but at the moment this work isn’t well recognised in inspections. Like it or not, Ofsted can have a big influence on what schools prioritise and how they spend their limited budgets – and so it’s vital that the inspections reflect what really matters in a school.
We believe that the proposals are a step in the right direction, with less of a focus on academic performance and more emphasis on “Personal Development”. But there is more to do.
Here’s our assessment of their proposals:
- The new framework focuses much less on academic assessment and exam results, and more on the “quality” of education (which includes skills, knowledge and personal development). In the past, schools have been judged too much on grades alone, so this is a very welcome change.
- The new inspections will take a zero tolerance attitude to “off-rolling” – removing a pupil from school without a formal, permanent exclusion in order to improve academic results. This is important, as children and young people with mental health needs have too often been illegally excluded through “off-rolling” in the past. Inspectors will also now check whether the school is developing alternatives to exclusion, including through ensuring a young person can get help through local support services.
- Personal Development has now become one of the four key judgments for each inspection. This includes helping pupils understand how to be “mentally healthy” – which is explained in the handbook as “developing pupils’ confidence, resilience and knowledge so that they can keep themselves mentally healthy.” The changes are positive, but could go further.
- The Personal Development judgment will also recognise schools for helping pupils develop an “age-appropriate understanding of healthy relationships through appropriate relationship and sex education”. This reflects the expected changes to be introduced to the Relationship and Sex curriculum.
- There is a welcome new focus within the guidance on the Leadership and Management judgment about the extent to which leaders take into account the workload and wellbeing of their staff – although this is not part of the framework itself.
- The framework and accompanying guidance include many other elements which we welcome, including respect of difference; a positive, respectful school culture in which staff know and care about pupils; an environment in which bullying and discrimination are dealt with quickly, consistently and effectively; and the promotion of equal opportunities for those with additional needs or SEND.
- There is no reference in the framework or the handbooks to the importance of schools taking a whole-school approach to promoting wellbeing throughout the school. This is crucial and should be part of the Personal Development judgement. That’s because wellbeing and mental health needs to be a priority across the school, not the responsibility of one or two staff members, or something that is only covered in occasional lessons.
- The Behaviour and Attitudes judgement should reflect the fact that “difficult” behaviour can be a communication of mental health needs – and schools should be celebrated for identifying and understanding those underlying needs, as well as responding to the behaviour.
- Schools should be valued for identifying children who need mental health support and helping them to get the help they need. This isn’t highlighted enough in the new framework. We think it should be explicit within the Leadership and Management judgement that a school’s responsibilities for keeping children safe includes being able to identify mental health needs, and helping children get support when mental health problems emerge.
This is a vital opportunity to make sure that the wellbeing of children is at the heart of our education system. #TellOfsted what you think needs to change.