New assessment criteria: What is Ofsted looking for?

By Chris Jarosh

In his speech on the 15th January 2014, Sir Michael Wilshaw HMCI gave this insight for schools:

Inspectors will … want to see how well schools are responding to changes to the national curriculum from September [2014]. Every headteacher should be asking themselves the sort of questions that we will be asking when we inspect schools in the weeks and months ahead:

  • Are staff ready for the significant changes to the curriculum?
  • How is the school’s assessment model linked to the programmes of study and schemes of work in the new curriculum?
  • Is there an effective training programme in place?
  • Is the school timetable and school day flexible enough to accommodate the new curriculum?

In July 2014 Ofsted published a guidance document on how it will inspect schools’ use of assessment from September 2014. This addresses one of the key issues of the ‘end of levels’ – how can Ofsted get an accurate or fair picture of pupil progress when there is no universal standard of comparison?

Assessing for a purpose

Ofsted inspectors will be looking for proof that schools are using assessment to support teaching, target-setting, and improved outcomes.

They’ll want to see that:

  • ‘the school uses detailed formative and summative assessment to ensure that pupils, teachers and parents know if pupils are achieving the expected standard or if they need to catch up’
  • ‘the assessment system is linked to the school’s curriculum’

The programmes of study in the new national curriculum don’t provide a detailed, breakdown for formative assessment – schools will need to develop or adopt their own framework. They will need to prove that it is robust enough to support depth and breadth of learning. Moreover the assessment has to be based on something that can be explained easily and for which evidence can be provided.

This goes well beyond Ofsted inspections. It’s about the cornerstone of learning for all schools: the cycle of school improvement, where assessment can be used to inform teaching, targeted learning, and effective curriculum management.

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