Students and visitors are seen walking around the main campus buildings of University College London (UCL), part of the University of London, Britain, April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
© Reuters

Schools in England will from this September be assessed more on their broader efforts to improve pupils’ learning than test results under new arrangements unveiled on Tuesday by the government’s education inspectorate.

Ofsted said it would in future prioritise the “quality of education”, efforts to create a “broad, rich curriculum” and participation in extracurricular activities over students’ grades.

The change reflects growing criticism that schools have come under pressure to concentrate on improving their results in tests, and have resorted to tactics to the detriment of pupils. These include “off-rolling”, or removing from the school, those who perform less well in order to improve the institution’s apparent academic performance.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said: “The new framework puts the real substance of education at the heart of inspection and supports leaders and teachers who act with integrity.”

“We hope early years, schools and college leaders will no longer feel the need to generate and analyse masses of internal data for inspection,” she added. “Instead, we want them to spend their time teaching and making a real difference to children’s lives, which is why they entered the profession in the first place.”

Teachers’ unions reacted cautiously, questioning Ofsted’s capacity to carry out broader inspections and criticising its continued use of data in its judgments. Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “We believe that schools and colleges will still not be evaluated accurately or be provided with worthwhile feedback, and it will remain the case that Ofsted has neither the financial nor the human resources to effectively implement its ambitious inspection proposals.”

“Ofsted does not have the capacity to quality assure its own judgments and we do not have confidence in the capacity of inspectors to make judgments on the curriculum, particularly out of their own subject/phase expertise,” she added.

Two academics from King’s College London this week published research suggesting that teacher assessments are as reliable as standardised exams at predicting educational success.

Kaili Rimfeld from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience said: “The fact that exam scores correlate so highly with the teacher assessments raises questions about the value of the testing culture that characterises compulsory education in the UK.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said that off-rolling was confined to a minority of schools but that it was working with Ofsted to tackle the practice, which it said was “not legal and should not be happening”.

Ofsted’s new inspection framework follows a three-month public consultation, which generated more than 15,000 responses. 

It pledges to place greater emphasis on “behaviours and attitudes” and “personal development” including extracurricular activities, and to examine efforts to create a “calm and orderly environment” to tackle bullying.

Get alerts on UK schools when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article