ResearchED: session 7

(I was late for session 6 so I missed it out of blogging)

Amanda Spielman, HMCI, taking us through the different ways that Ofsted uses research to improve its practice.

What should be the purposes of research at Ofsted?

Giving a bird’s eye view of what works in schools, based on evidence from all the inspections. Informing Government about how well.olicies are being implemented and whether they are having an impact. Building evidence to improve inspection processes and practices. Assessing the impact inspections have on improving schools. 

So, are Ofsted fit for purpose? How do they use research to test the validity of their judgements? Amanda says that one of the nice things about her job is that almost everybody has an opinion on how to do it better. She says to keep the blogs coming, by the way, as she does find them very interesting. She works through some suggestions that have been made for improving judgement quality, such as parallel inspections – expensive and difficult to do. It would be very tricky to check for data bias, for example; and the free schools inspected with no data can be compared with similar schools that had data, to provide information on the existence of such bias. 

Lesson observations are a valuable tool but should consist of an aggregation of micro lesson observations. She repeats the message that schools should not grade individual  a lessons and says that this sort of thing has her tearing her hair out.  Book scrutiny is similar. 

What about the bird’s eye view? School poplns are often too small to understand properly the performance of special interest groups – disadvantaged, SEN etc. so aggregating the data provides a better view of this. Ofsted have been looking at how the new NC has been introduced and what non-NC schools are doing. She has a strong desire to ensure that the curriculum is fit for purpose as this has a bigger impact on social mobility than the school itself does. She explains why she is a fan of the new GCSEs: a big step in the right direction, she feels, as are new A-levels.

Understanding the impact of Ofsted. Making reports useful for parents; how grading structures affect school behaviour – both of these are currently being researched. (Note: behaviour OF schools, not IN schools).

How are Ofsted developing their next framework? (Don’t worry, not due until at least 2019). Partly by drawing together research from lots of different sources to ensure the best narrative and causal explanations. 

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