Ofsted’s new education inspection framework comes into force for the next academic year. Yet, the education watchdog has worryingly admitted that its new model for evaluating lesson quality “does not fit” FE providers, FE Week reports.
Tom Richmond, an adviser to former skills minister Matt Hancock, called Ofsted’s admission “extremely worrying,” after it said it needed to think of a “more suitable” approach ahead of September’s framework roll-out. There have been calls for Ofsted to postpone the launch for another year.
The inspectorate released research into the reliability and plausibility of its framework last week.
The initial set of reports honed-in on lesson visits and scrutiny of pupils’ work – two of the three key pillars of the new “quality of education” judgement. The body said its lesson visits “did not show the same level of reliability in further education and skills (FES) settings as it did in schools.” This was because the model “does not fit with all delivery methods and contexts in FES” since it is “essentially classroom-based.”
Ofsted acknowledged that reliability was “considerably weaker” in the college sample. It said its findings suggest the prototype model is not a good fit for lessons in a FES setting, and that more research is required.
It added: “The FES context is likely to be incompatible with the current model design. We therefore need to develop an alternative observation model that is not associated with the school context.”
The report also noted that workbook scrutiny may not be relevant to FES settings. This is because students (i.e. sixth-form students) may not always be asked to bring work into class, and the main written activity during lessons might be note-taking. As a consequence, Ofsted said it is working on creating a model more suited to FE provision.
Richmond, also founder and director of think-tank EDSK, acknowledged how concerns over the consistency of Ofsted’s judgements have been around for many years, with the latest reports justifying these concerns.
He said the new framework should be pushed back by one year to enable sufficient evaluation of Ofsted’s new methods before they’re used to inspect colleges and apprenticeships, “because it is clear that Ofsted’s planned approach is highly unlikely to produce consistent judgements between inspectors.”
Richmond concluded that it is “not acceptable to expect educators and leaders in the FE sector to have their institutions assessed when such significant problems remain unresolved.”
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