Ofsted is consulting on its new draft Education Inspection Framework. We encourage members to respond (deadline 5 April).
Our key concerns are as follows:
Ofsted’s attempt to focus on the curriculum rather than simply outcomes is welcome, not least for its attempt to counteract the unnecessary workload generated by collection of excessive progress data. However, there are a number of key concerns regarding the direction of travel of the new framework in relation to the Early Years Foundation Stage:
- The significant differences between the Early Years Inspection Handbook and the Early Years section of Schools Inspection Handbook The EYFS Statutory Framework applies in the same way to schools and other early years providers. Given the increasing number of Reception-age children staying in other provision, and the growing number of 2-year-olds in schools, as well as 3- and 4-year-olds, it would be a matter of concern if different criteria or standards were applied based on the type of setting rather than the needs of the child.
- The school inspection handbook talks about ensuring there is no narrowing of the curriculum from KS2. This gives the impression that Ofsted endorses a narrowing of the curriculum in the EYFS or KS1. Narrowing the curriculum in the EYFS, whether to focus on literacy and numeracy or any other aspect of the curriculum, would be in contravention of the EYFS Statutory Framework, and any impression given by Ofsted that this is allowable or encouraged would therefore place contradictory demands on schools and settings.
- Ofsted has acknowledged that it is not its role to tell schools or settings WHAT to teach. How does it square this with prescriptive statements within the handbooks which say inspectors will focus on particular aspects of the EYFS (mainly literacy and maths) rather than on the whole EYFS curriculum? The Statutory Framework for the EYFS states that “All areas of learning and development are important and inter-connected.”
- Similarly, Ofsted has acknowledged that it is not its role to tell schools or settings HOW to teach. Yet the Schools Framework says, for example, (p261) that inspectors will consider how well “staff teach children to read systematically by using synthetic phonics and books that match the children’s phonic knowledge” and “staff develop children’s love of reading, through reading aloud and telling stories and rhymes”. Use of systematic synthetic phonics is not even mentioned in the EYFS, and while it may be government policy to encourage it is use in primary schools it is a concern that Ofsted appears to be introducing requirements about how to teach which are not part of statutory requirements. By going beyond its remit in this way, Ofsted is telling schools and settings how to teach, despite claims to the contrary.
- How does Ofsted reconcile its commitment to reducing workload with including levels of detail about what and how to teach in its handbooks which go beyond the EYFS statutory requirements? Expecting settings to familiarise themselves with a 40 page inspection handbook, and schools to get to grips with a 95 page handbook seems to go against the principle of reducing workload.
Please send any comments and additions to our draft response to Beatrice Merrick