Spielman opens up on new Ofsted framework

Speaking to Tes at today’s (21/11/18) Association of Colleges annual conference in Birmingham, Amanda Spielman insisted that although it will apply to all education settings, the new framework, due to be consulted on from January, was not designed with just schools in mind.

It was instead “absolutely conceived from the beginning as an education framework, because education is something that runs from very early in children’s life all the way through to adulthood”. “The issues around teaching, assessment, around how you run an institution, they run all the way through,” Ms Spielman said. “They have a slightly different balance and importance at different stages and the particular manifestation might be different, which is why we write different handbooks for each stage.”

The inspectorate’s proposed new framework centres around the quality of the curriculum offered for students, and will also consider things like student behaviour – something some college leaders have raised concerns about. However, Ms Spielman said assessing an institution’s curriculum and the behaviours and attitudes of learners is “absolutely meaningful”.

“It is about making sure that those study programmes are thought of as a full curriculum for those students not just a qualification and a resat GCSE or two. It is about ‘What is it that is going to see them develop all the things we want out of that?’. It might mean ‘Is this something that is really about educating, about developing these students as far as possible, not just ticking the assessment items on a particular qualification?’. It is a little bit different translating it into practice in colleges than it is in schools, but the what is being taught and to whom and why is just as relevant post-16 as it is pre-16.”

There will also no longer be a separate grade for an institution’s high-needs provision. “It is really about trying to find a balance,” Ms Spielman said. “We have got six types of provision that we have to provide a separate judgement on. So it is a question of balance within inspection time. We end up putting a great deal of time into areas that typically cover a small number of students in order to provide this judgement, and it is about providing a little bit more flexibility within what is a fairly constrained activity. Inspection does not have huge budgets, contrary to what people might think.”

The inspectorate’s plans have been relatively well received, she said: “I am tempting fate, and I know that what I get personally is not necessarily going to be symmetrical, but I have had quite a lot of people come up to me spontaneously to say they like the direction we are taking. Of course there are always questions about how exactly it is going to work but I have not had anybody say to me yet that they think we are doing the wrong thing.”

“It is hard for us to conclude in the context of any single inspection that if we see something that isn’t the way it should be, that that is definitively because of funding. Nevertheless, we can see that looking over time, and looking comparatively at the college and the schools sector, FE funding has stayed absolutely flat over a very long period in real terms, during which school funding has grown.”

She added that there were still some examples of great practice in the sector: “We see some people who are doing it very well at the moment but there is no question it makes the job of leading and managing a college a really tough one. That is exactly why I have chosen to say something about it.”

Read the full article Spielman opens up on new Ofsted framework

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