No template, says Ofsted chief, just so long as you avoid mixed-ability teaching, says DfE

Janet Downs's picture
It’s encouraging that Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw said, “There will be no OFSTED template which compels teachers to do things they wouldn’t normally do. We need to celebrate diversity, ingenuity and imagination in the way that we teach.”

However, this diversity isn’t extended to teachers with mixed-ability classes. Sir Michael acknowledged that it’s possible to teach mixed-ability classes and differentiate between pupils but it was incredibly difficult. However, the Department for Education (DfE) told TES:

“Ofsted will mark down lessons where there is no differentiation between high and low attainers.”

It’s unclear why the DfE answered TES’s questions about Ofsted – the inspectorate is supposed to be independent.

Although Sir Michael explicitly said, "This is not a judgment on mixed ability as opposed to setting or streaming”, his remarks were interpreted as being a sign that mixed-ability classes would be censured by inspectors. According to the Daily Telegraph, inspectors have been instructed to “crackdown on schools that fail to stretch the brightest and weakest pupils by placing them in mixed-ability lessons.” No recognition here that skilled teachers can successfully differentiate between pupils of differing ability in the same class – primary school teachers do it daily. According to the Telegraph, the “brightest and weakest” can only be stretched in classes set by ability

The Mail went further. Under a heading, “Mixed-ability classes 'are holding back bright pupils' says head of education watchdog”, the paper reported that although schools can’t be forced to place pupils in sets according to ability, headteachers are likely to “rethink their practice of mixed ability classes for fear of being marked down in future inspections.”

ConservativeHome went further still. A blog accused the “Left” of trying to silence Wilshaw by not mentioning his critique of mixed-ability teaching. The blogger said the “Left” was “completely ignoring the scandal that our education system squanders 20% of our talented youngsters.” This is a misrepresentation of what Sir Michael actually said. He expressed concern about the 20% (or thereabouts) of pupils who attained Level 5 in their Key Stage 2 tests but did not achieve grade B or higher in GCSE. He blamed this on a combination of factors not just undifferentiated mixed ability teaching. The other factors he cited were entering GCSE early, low expectations in schools of pupils and a failure to track the progress of pupils.

Whether it’s possible, even desirable, to “differentiate” in lessons which are normally mixed-ability such as art, PE and Personal/Social/Health Education is unclear. Differentiation in these subjects is through outcome but there’s no recognition by DfE that this is possible. Primary school classes usually contain the full range of ability – there will be times when the teacher will set different tasks for different groups but there will be others when the same task is given to the whole class but the teacher will expect the standard of work produced to match each pupil’s capabilities. Under the new Ofsted regime, the latter lesson would likely be downgraded.

Concerns have been expressed about the competence and experience of Ofsted inspectors. This raises the question whether inspectors will recognise differentiated teaching in a mixed-ability class when they see it. Or will they, like the Daily Mail, define differentiation as setting and downgrade any teaching, however ingenious and imaginative, which is found in a mixed-ability class?

No template, then? Just make sure pupils are in sets.

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agov's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 08:12

So, Wilshaw accepts mixed-ability classes provided there is differentiation. Tory propaganda site then claims Wilshaw condemns mixed-ability classes.

I suppose the question is whether Wilshaw knew of, expected, or wanted the Tory distortion or whether he is very naive.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 09:07

agov - there are four issues here, all equally worrying. I'll deal with each in separate comments. The first is, as you say, the media distortion about what Sir Michael said. They ignored his comment that differentiation in mixed ability classes was possible although difficult and publicised a supposed "crackdown" on mixed ability classes (despite primary classes being mixed ability).

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 09:08

agov - the second issue is that the DfE answered questions about Ofsted inspections. Ofsted is supposed to be independent. The DfE, therefore, should have told TES that inspections were a matter for Ofsted. Instead the DfE said that lessons would be downgraded if the inspector could not see any differentiation within the lesson between high and low attainers.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 09:10

agov - the third issue is that Sir Michael has not considered that differentiation by outcome is one strategy in mixed-ability teaching. This is especially the case in practical subjects or PSHE (although in the latter it's difficult to judge the immediate effectiveness - how would a lesson on contraception be judged, for example?).

Ignoring differentiation by outcome means that lessons could be downgraded because the teacher hadn't set different tasks for different groups. Even in a subject like English, the teacher could present the same lesson on an aspect of, say, character in a Shakespeare play, but know that the weaker candidates would just describe baldly what the character did but the stronger candidates would discuss motivation, causes and so on.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 09:10

agov - the fourth issue is that some inspectors, the ones with no experience of the sector or subject being inspected (or, worse, no teaching experience at all) would not recognise skilled differentiation and just assume that mixed-ability classes are to be downgraded (thanks to all the media publicity which said just that).

Andy's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 09:58

Agov@ the inverse of what you suggest may also be true. That is to say, that the distortion is political opportunism to drive their own agenda.

Andy's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 09:56

Janet@ I think you are (a) according too much infuence to the media in relation to inspectors and ergo how they inspect (b) being a tad unfair on inspectors who are bound by the inspection framework, which as can be seen from the quotes in my main comment below does not focus on ability setting (including mixed ability) rather it focuses on evidencing progress for all pupils of all abilities.

Andy's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 10:06

Janet@ are you aware of the following document which sets out the requirements for inspectors:

For me this give rise for optimism that the culture under the previous government - recruiting far too many lay inspectors - is being erased.

Three other positives are:

1. The introduction of the PQSI (Professional Qualification for School Inspectors) through Liverpool John Hope Uni.
2. The restructured 18 month training programme for inspectors
3. Headteachers' being invited - nay encouraged - to shadow inspection teams

Taken together I see room for optimism

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 08:46


Your normally sure command of logical reasoning appears to have deserted you. This post seems to be a giant non sequitur.

This seems pretty clear:

Sir Michael acknowledged that it’s possible to teach mixed-ability classes and differentiate between pupils but it was incredibly difficult.

But then we get:

However, the Department for Education (DfE) told TES:

“Ofsted will mark down lessons where there is no differentiation between high and low attainers.”

Why the "however"?

The two statements are consistent, not opposed.

Wilshaw says something is possible, difficult to pull off. DfE says that teachers who fail to pull it off will get marked down (as they should).

The signal to schools is clear: only skilled teachers adept at differentiating in the classroom should be put in front of mixed-ability classes.

Seems sensible.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 15:37

Mixed ability teaching is not difficult if you are your students are used to it. It's also not difficult if you've got teachers around you doing it because when you see it's quite easy to copy the dynamics of it.

Setting by ability is banned in Finland and they have exceptional results with an education system which is fully inclusive. People who've actually taught mixed ability properly at secondary school (as I have) understand why that would be the case.

My personal opinion is that in a subject like maths it is best that students have chunks of mixed ability teaching as it develops certain skill sets much better than setted teaching and chunks of setted teaching too. However I would not advise any secondary school to do this unless they have the protection of a respected and Ofstedproof head and/or established good results and a protective and supportive HE institute nearby as most Ofsted inspectors have no idea what good mixed ability lessons at secondary school feel like and hugely underrate then.

I say that speaking as a former head of maths who oversaw mixed ability maths teaching while we were being externally inspected up to 7 times a year by inspectors who were supposedly secondary maths specialists but appeared not only never to have come across mixed ability teaching but also not to have come across challenging students, let alone having a clue about how you actually teach both at the same time.

Many inspectors refused to grade any lesson as being satisfactory unless there was clear evidence of every child having been working at 'their correct level' in their exercise books during ever lesson over the previous months. The evidence trail left by mixed ability teaching is very different to that left by setted teaching and most inspectors simply were not capable of understanding or coping with that. The didn't understand basic concepts such as the difference between differentiation by input and differentiation by output. I experimented with teaching the same lesson with different inspectors. Some would grade it outstanding but most would grade it satisfactory for the reasons described above. Generally by break on the first day of an inspection staff would have profiled the inspectors and we'd all start teaching according to what they were capable of understanding and inspecting. That would never be mixed ability by choice - not because the lessons were lower quality but because of the inspectors.

The rise of tiny free schools where mixed ability teaching is standard is going to be - er - interesting. I hope the teachers have nice docile students and aren't pestered by inspectors 7 times a year so they get a chance to get the hang of it and enjoy it.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 15:38

Does Sir Michael have clue what he's talking about? Has he ever been at a school with decent mixed ability teaching? Does he understand why it is so good and works so well in Finland.

I doubt it but I'm all ears to hear that my doubts are not justified.

George Macreadey's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 18:39

'Children of immigrants in Finland tend to have lower levels of school achievement at the end of comprehensive school than the majority. However, this article has shown that to a large extent this can be explained by their lower parental resources.....

this interpretation of adaptive grading practices comes from the finding that the grades of immigrants tend to be slightly higher than the grades of majority students with similar test performance (Kuusela et al. 2008: 124–125), as performance in standardised tests is likely to be more affected by language skills.

This may have implications for the further educational trajectories of children of immigrants.

If teachers in comprehensive schools have overestimated the achievements of their immigrant-origin pupils then this may make successful completion of upper secondary more difficult for them than anticipated......

In conclusion, one of the main dividing lines in Finnish comprehensive schools tends to be between majority girls (as well as some minority girls) and the rest (majority and minority boys as well as many minority girls).

However, the lower achievement levels of children of immigrants should not be overlooked: given the low social status of immigrant parents, the disadvantages faced by children of immigrants are cumulative, and most children of immigrants are not overcoming their low social origins.

'For what it's worth, I came away from Finland mostly reminded why I have so little faith in the whole breathless industry of international comparisons. The difficulty with reifying international test score comparisons is that they suffer from the same banal problems that bedevil simple NCLB-style comparisons. PISA and TIMSS results say nothing about the value schools are adding; they merely provide simple cross-sectional snapshots of achievement (with the added complication, as Brookings's Tom Loveless notes, that the tests themselves have some problems).

Using PISA or TIMSS results to judge school quality (in Finland or anywhere else) poses the exact same problem as using NCLB-style tests to conclude that schools in a bucolic, leafy suburb are "better" than those in a chaotic city rife with broken families. There's a lot of stuff going on, and only the foolhardy would insist that any differences are necessarily due to educational strategies rather than non-school factors. (This is the conundrum that value-added analysis can help address.).....

For all that, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported in 2008 that "the gap between rich and poor has widened more in Finland than in any other wealthy industrialized country over the past decade." So, Finnophile or not, a reminder that a note of caution is due when imagining that higher tests scores are the miracle salve for our economic woes.'

Dr. Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 20:57

Perhaps people who achieve high academic standards in Finland aren't particularly bothered about monetary wealth?

John Medeiros's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 21:25

'Aspiration, which identifies English, is totally unknown in Finnish'

'Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Finland, the average person earns 24 958 USD a year, slightly more than the OECD average of 22 387 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn almost four times as much as the bottom 20%......

People in Finland work 1697 hours a year, lower than the OECD average of 1749 hours. The share of employees working more than 50 hours per week is not very large across OECD countries. In Finland, 4% of employees work very long hours, lower than the OECD average of 9%. Overall, men spend more hours in paid work: in Finland 6% of men work very long hours, compared with 2% for women.'

OECD better life index

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 21:32

When Pasi Sahlberg spoke in the Houses of Parliament he spoke about the importance of the economic collapse in Finland 20ish years ago in shaping education. It was very interesting. The rural effect is obviously also important. Then we have emerging technology which is a game changer for everyone.

John Medeiros's picture
Fri, 26/10/2012 - 22:07

'Texting livestock seems to be a bit of a fad in Switzerland: a couple months ago we reported on a similar system that let farmers know when collared sheep are attacked. The hills may soon be alive with the sound of ringing ruminants.'

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 27/10/2012 - 07:23

:-) I now get an email when my son has finished reading a book and done a test on it. Great system!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 28/10/2012 - 19:13

This TES thread is quite good as they go. You've got the chaos you normally see in discussion forums when people who don't know each other are trying to chat anonymously about issues they don't normally talk about amongst the posts of the trolls and random oddballs but there are a lot of genuine posts there:

It paints a picture of schools being in a culture where you are between the rock where you are considered mad and inappropriate for teaching if you don't play the system and cover your faults (because you know the not doing so creates horrific consequences for your school) are and the hard place of education being a fundamentally vocational and honest profession. This could be resolved if there was a legal framework in place whereby schools could complain properly if they felt they'd been unfairly treated and cases could be heard in a balanced way. Good inspectors and good inspections could then be exonerated too.

I had a long conversation yesterday with yet an other good teacher in a tough school who has walked away from teaching because she's had enough of Ofsted. We are dedicated and able professionals and we have no voice at all so we are forced into this heads down play the game culture or we have to leave. Is it good for kids that the teachers who don't want to play the game are the ones who are leaving?

Not allowing teachers and schools any legal rights when their regulator is clearly behaving inappropriately is Gove's biggest failure.

Andy's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 19:43

"Key features of the framework for school inspection from September 2012

5.Inspectors focus sharply on those aspects of schools’ work that have the greatest impact on raising achievement. They make a small number of key judgements as set out in paragraph 7.
6.Inspections engage headteachers, school staff and governors . The views of parents, pupils and staff provide important evidence for the inspection.
7.Inspectors are required to report on the quality of education provided in the school and must, in particular, cover:
the achievement of pupils at the school
the quality of teaching in the school
the behaviour and safety of pupils at the school
the quality of leadership in, and management of, the school.

8.When reporting, inspectors must also consider:

the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school
the extent to which the education provided by the school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school, and in particular the needs of disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs."

The above is taken verbatim from the Sep '12 Ofsted framework for School Inspections.

What follows is taken verbatim from the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook (Sep 12):

"98. Inspection is primarily about evaluating how well individual pupils benefit from their school. It is important to test the school’s response to individual needs by
School inspection handbook
September 2012, No.120101 24
observing how well it helps all pupils to make progress and fulfil their potential. Depending on the type of school it may be relevant to pay particular attention to the achievement of:
disabled pupils, and those who have special educational needs
those with protected characteristics,16 as defined by the Equality Act 2010
the highest and lowest attainers
pupils for whom the pupil premium provides support including: looked after children pupils known to be eligible for free school meals children of service families
those receiving alternative provision17."


"Observing learning
111. Inspectors must not expect teaching staff to teach in any specific way or follow a prescribed methodology.
112. Inspectors must evaluate the use that is made of teaching assistants.
113. When inspectors observe teaching, they observe pupils’ learning. Good teaching, which includes high levels of expertise and subject knowledge, with the expectation that pupils will achieve well, enables pupils to acquire knowledge, deepen their understanding, and develop and consolidate skills.
114. Inspectors must consider whether:
work is challenging enough for all pupils and meets their individual needs
pupils’ responses demonstrate sufficient gains in their knowledge, skills and understanding, including in literacy and mathematics
teachers monitor pupils’ progress in lessons and use the information well to adapt their teaching
teachers use questioning and discussion to assess the effectiveness of their teaching and promote pupils’ learning
pupils understand well how to improve their work.
Not all aspects of learning, for example pupils’ engagement, interest, concentration, determination, resilience and independence, will be seen in a single observation.

115. Inspectors’ direct observation must be supplemented by a range of other evidence to enable inspectors to evaluate what teaching is typically like and the impact that teaching has had on pupils’ learning over time. Such additional evidence may include:
evidence arising from observations of lessons carried out by senior staff
discussions with pupils about the work they have undertaken and their experience of teaching and learning over longer periods
discussion about teaching and learning with teachers, teaching assistants and other staff
the views of pupils, parents and staff
the school’s own evaluations of the quality of teaching and its impact on learning
scrutiny of pupils’ work, with particular attention given to: how well and frequently marking, assessment and testing are used to help teachers improve pupils’ learning the level of challenge provided pupils’ effort and success in completing their work and the progress they make over a period of time."

Apologies for the length of the post but I feel it is important to base comment on the actuality of the framework as opposed to media and other well intentioned cources and their interpretation of what they think should be happening.

I would invite particular attention to:

A. Para 111 above
B. The stated goals of the inspection framework that clearly focuses on all pupils of all abilities being appropriately challenged
C. DfE are responsible for Teachers' Standards (see DfE publication May 12). When this is read in conjunction with the Ofsted documentation it is clear (and right) that there are overlaps relating to DfE expectations of teacher standards and the evidence sought by Ofsted to gauge whether those standards are being applied and met for the benefit of pupil progress.

It seems to me then that Ofsted are focused on evidencing performance rooted in pupil progress across all abilities over time (i.e. 3 years) linked to how well the school knows itself (e.g. Senior Leaders and Subject Leaders judgements of the quality of teaching and pupil progress).

Just a thought or two.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 22:38

What happens when Ofsted inspectors do not keep to these standards?
What can schools do?

agov's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 09:46

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 13:09

Oh dear, references to a busted flush Mr B is referring the Telepgraph article quoting McIntosh following the latters interview with a journalist for the Tablet:

My observations about the article are as follows and (for me) give rise to the thought that Mr McIntosh may just be a tad behind the times in his critique of Ofsted:

I suggest this because:

1. Ofsted has never been independent of the government of the day. It therefore focuses on the areas that each government sets.

2. The inspection focus is on the pupil(s) and their learning. It is not about the teacher rather it is about gauging and evidencing the learning.

3. Achievement is also predicated on pupil learning. That is to say the pupils are making rapid and sustained progress over time. Yes, clear the teacher is leading the learning through the way it is packaged and delivered but, and critically, it is not about the teacher it is about the pupil.

4. The League Table and alleged Ofsted compliance culture is not driven by Ofsted. Here I would refer back to (1) above insofar as the League Tables and Ofsted regime are driven by the government of the day.

5. GCSE attainment is driven by DFE floor targets that in turn are set by the SoS (government of the day). Ofsted use the DFE/Government data collections through Raiseonline to seek out the underlying evidence to clarify how well a school is achieving against those DFE/government targets (e.g. are all pupils needs being met or is there underperformance/coasting)

6. 24 hour notice inspections are a red herring and do no damage to the leadership or management or operation or learning of a school. A well led, well managed school with quality teaching and learning at its heart should be able to take a no notice let alone 24 hr notice inspection in its stride. Arguably a position predicated on longer notice is more likely to indicate a leader lacking in confidence in their school.

7. The curriculum is determined by government not Ofsted.

8. The purpose of education is cast by parliament.

9. Like it or not the fact is that Sir Michael did not make a sweeping/generalised assertion about the number of teachers fleeing school with the pupils on the bell, this is a media myth. He did assert that there are teachers who do not pull their weight in the context of a minority that were holding back both the majority and pupil achievement.

10. Like it or not the teachers’ pay policy has had and still does have a formal link to performance management since the introduction of the latter around 2000/01. There is then an inbuilt requirement for teachers to progress from the entry scale to the top scale through performance management (formerly 1-9 now 1-6). Pressure from the unions on previous governments effectively waived this requirement and schools practiced automatic incremental progression until the upper pay scale thresholds(UPS 1 – 3). So why the fuss over reasserting the actual criteria and re-establishing the link to performance management?

Points 2 and 3 do not readily lend themselves to a ‘robotic tick box’ culture. Perhaps this is an apposite point to quote from the Ofsted Inspection documentation:

““Observing learning
111. Inspectors must not expect teaching staff to teach in any specific way or follow a prescribed methodology.” (Taken verbatim from the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook, Sep 12)

I would suggest that too many Head’s do not fully understand the Ofsted regime and are imposing misguided and inaccurate tick box strategies. They would be better focusing, as Ofsted now does, on:

a. Pupil attainment over time

b. Reducing the time teacher talks and increase the time pupils spend on task

c. Refocus on every pupil achieving/exceeding their targets NOT getting the school to hit national floor targets.

None of this is either robotic or tick box. Heads’ may also want to avail themselves of the offer from Ofsted to shadow inspections. This must surely be better than paying for senior staff to attend inspection CPD from private providers.

It would have been better if the article had focused on urging clearer understanding of the inspection process by Headteachers and equally importantly urging for a path away from a heavily academic and cerebral curriculum that does not adequately prepare young people for their next steps in life (e.g. if they do not achieve academic GCSEs or GCE ‘O’ level equivalents through the EBacc Cert – which are of dubious quality – they are labelled as failures irrespective of their actual talents and competencies). In terms of Ofsted the biggest issue for me is hiving it off from the SoS such that it is truly independent but still answerable to parliament.

As for Mr B I suggest people beware the wounded expert who had his dream Free School knocked back because he didn't want to employ enough qualified teachers (i.e. he only wanted ONE, the director of studies). He has shown that irrespective of the evidence he will flail away at anyone who disagrees with his view.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 16:47

Nice catch Andy. I thought that blog was rather better than usual!

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 17:10

Rebecca@ Please keep your sniping comments to yourself. I have wish to be damned by your attempts at faint praise. Surprise, surprise I am very secure in my own abilities and competence.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 17:38

Could you maybe try to take a compliment with a little more grace and good humour Andy?

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 17:45

Rebecca@ You call this a compliment and humourous:

"I thought that blog was rather better than usual!"

I call it arrogant and bordering on haughty condescension

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 17:49

It was intended as a compliment.

The question below is dead straight. You've shown an interested in discussion the LRRA and I'm interested in what you have to say so I've tried to frame a question which will allow you to lay out your thought in the way which will be most relevant to the debate.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 18:50

I posted this on 10 Jun 12 and in the main it still stands. That said the new (Sep 12) Inspection Framework is even more in line with Hampton (2004) and LRRA:

10/06/12 at 11:13 am

I think the issue of the Hampton review – unveiled in 2004 and full report publsihed in March 2005 – and the principles that flowed from it needs a fresh airing:

“02 December 2004

Hampton Review of regulatory inspection and enforcement Interim Report
In Budget 2004 the Chancellor asked Philip Hampton to lead a review into regulatory inspection and enforcement with a view to reducing the administrative cost of regulation to the minimum consistent with maintaining the UK’s excellent regulatory outcomes.

This interim report, Reducing administrative burdens: effective inspection and enforcement, outlines the issues relevant to the administrative cost of regulation, and suggests possible solutions. A list of questions for consultation form part of the interim report. The consultation period is open until 4 February 2005. A final report with recommendations to Government will be published in spring 2005”

The full report gained international recognition acknowledged by the OECD (I will return to this later) and gave rise to legislation in 2007 in the form of the ‘Statutory Code of Practice for Regulators, 17 December 2007’:

Part One: General Introduction section 1.2:

“This Code supports the Government’s better regulation agenda and is based on the recommendations in the Hampton Report1. Its purpose is to promote efficient and effective approaches to regulatory inspection and enforcement which improve regulatory outcomes2 without imposing unnecessary burdens on business, the Third Sector3 and other regulated entities.4

1 Reducing Administrative Burdens: Effective Inspection and Enforcement, Philip Hampton, March 2005.
2 Throughout this Code, the term ‘regulatory outcomes’ means the ‘end purpose’ of regulatory activity (for example, reduction in accidents/disease, less pollution).
3 This is defined as non-governmental organisations that include voluntary and community organisations, charities, social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals.
4 Throughout this Code, the term ‘regulated entities’ includes businesses, public sector bodies, charities and voluntary sector organisations that are subject to regulation.
5 The term ‘regulator’ is used in this code to refer to any organisation that exercises a regulatory function.”

Part Two: Specific obligations of the Code

[Rather regurgitate verbatim I have limited the quote to the headings for each obligation. The link will enable readers to verify the full extent of the scope for themselves]

Economic Progress
Risk Assessment
Advice and Guidance
Inspections and other Visits
Information requirements
Compliance and enforcement actions

The foregoing provides an auditable trail from conception to implementation between 2004 and 2007. The efficacy and recognition of these actions was evidence in the OECD 2010 report focusing on Compliance and enforcement actions:

“The practical roll-out of the Hampton recommendations is a fundamental and comprehensive effort to embed risk-based regulatory management at ground level.
This is an area where there have been significant developments since the 2002 OECD report. There appears to be steady progress in taking forward the Hampton recommendations, energetically spearheaded by the BRE (Better Regulation Executive). The changes proposed by Hampton were innovative and have been a source of inspiration to other countries (everybody has heard of Hampton). Change was also particularly necessary in the United Kingdom, given its complex and overlapping structures for enforcement.”

“An important Hampton recommendation was that the number of national regulatory agencies should be reduced. Specifically, Hampton recommended that 31 bodies should be merged into 7 thematic ones. This had already started to happen, with the consolidation of regulators that led to the establishment of OFCOM (communications) and the FSA (financial services), among others. The establishment of OFSTED (education inspections) has reduced the number of education inspectorates from 11 to 4. Funding cuts have helped the process along, and not least, encouraged the take up of the new approach to enforcement8. More mergers are in the pipeline.

8. For example OFSTED’s budget was cut from GBP 240 million to GBP 180 million.”

“The Regulators Compliance Code
[At this point I will interject my personal understanding of this appears to be reflected in Ofsted’s activities]

The Regulators Compliance Code is a statutory code of practice which came into force in April 20089. The aim of the code is to ensure that inspection and enforcement is efficient, both for the regulators and those they regulate. The code gives the seven Hampton principles relating to regulatory inspection and enforcement a statutory basis:

9. Under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006.

• Regulators should recognise that a key element of their activity will be to allow, or even encourage, economic progress and only to intervene when there is a clear case for protection.
[Economic progress may be understood in terms of value for money and return on investment in relation to taxpayer funding for state schools e.g. public examination results against floor targets. Thus if such schools are deemed not to be meeting government targets then the value for money legitimately trigger scrutiny from the regulator (Ofsted). It can also be argued that the reduction of the target areas covered by inspections contributes to this.]

• Regulators, and the regulatory system as a whole, should use comprehensive risk assessment to concentrate resources in the areas that need them most.
[See above: fall below prescribed performance expectations and trigger an inspection, meet or exceed the targets and benefit from a reduced frequency of type of inspection visit. The reduced scope of the inspection framework is relevant here also.]

• Regulators should provide authoritative, accessible advice easily and cheaply.
[The Ofsted and DFE websites both meet these criteria]

• No inspection should take place without reason.
[See earlier comments: only triggered by failing to meet prescribed and published performance measures]
• Businesses should not have to give unnecessary information or give the same piece of information twice.
[The scrapping of the formal DFE SEF requirement is an example of meeting this criterion. Withdrawing KS3 SATs is another example]

• The few businesses that persistently break regulations should be identified quickly and face proportionate and meaningful sanctions.
[Schools that either demonstrate inadequacy and/or consistently fail to meet prescribed and published performance expectation and/or breach Child Protection issues face the imposition of ‘notice to improve’ or ‘special measures’ – the former being enhanced by ‘requiring improvement’ from Sept 12]

• Regulators should be accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of their activities, while remaining independent in the decisions they take.”
[The new streamlined and fewer foci for school inspection contribute to this. Ofsted is doubly accountable in that individual schools have the right of appeal and the organisation itself is answerable to Parliament through the Secretary of State for Education. The Ofsted annual budget has also fallen by £60 million.]

Based on this dispassionate overview of formal codes of practice and external authoritative reports it would appear that despite personal interactions with Ofsted, and irrespective of whether it formally falls under the appropriate legislation or not, Ofsted is complying with the Hampton principles. This indicates that the problems arising within the operation of Ofsted are not regulatory as much as a flawed/skewed approach to the operation of the framework in which it is supposed to operate.

I doubt anyone would argue that a failing or underperforming school doesn’t need action to redress the situation. What is worrisome is that, and as highlighted by Janet elsewhere, schools that Ofsted adjudged ‘Good’ or ‘Satisfactory and improving’ within the last 12-24 months are now likely to be adjudged Satisfactory/Requiring improvement at best and all too often placed in special measures. Yes, there will be some that slipped backwards but by no means all of them. I would argue then that Ofsted have made a rod for their back and damaged even further their reputation for effectiveness and accuracy of judgements. However, for me this is an operation/tactical issue not a policy problem regarding regulatory codes of practice or Hampton’s principles.

Your response at 0901 on 10 Jun 2012 was:

“”Ofsted is complying with the Hampton principles.”"

New comment

I mention the new framework because it (a) underscores that Ofsted are not there to critique T&L rather to link the success of the strategies in use to the schools results (b) embraces a mandatory offer for the school's senior team to get involved with the inspection through shadowing observations (c) reinforces the reduced foci (d) includes a mandatory offer for the Headteacher to be present and involved in team discussions during the inspection.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 18:54

On the off chance that you've forgotten this discussion or just want to check its context the link is:

There again you could just have exercised your right to change your mind: an option to us all.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 19:37

That conversation makes it sound like you think Ofsted are currently complying with the regulators code Andy. If you think this why do you not support schools having the right to challenge Ofsted if they are not complying with it? What harm would it do?

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 21:26

I've no doubt that we all have traits or characteristics that are extremely difficult to change/stop/shake-off., and I see that you are no different. You never stop trying to put words into other peoples mouths and/or telling them what they think/are saying/are meaning, and once again you are horribly wrong.

You say, "... why do you not support schools having the right to challenge Ofsted if they are not complying with it?" but I have said nor implied/inferred anything of the sort. Indeed, I have invited attention to the complaints process available in both the state and private sectors; including the option of resorting to Judicial Review. I have also cited the case of the Cumbrian Academy pursuing such a review and clearly stated that the outcome is eagerly awaited.

Put another way, I believe that (1) your persistent assertions about the LRRA are exaggerated and overlook the facts and (2) every school state or private that considers their inspection to have been flawed or a complete mis-inspection in accordance with the appropriate framework has the inalienable right to pursue a complaint.

I trust that this is clear enough not only for clarity of undertanding but also to avoid wilful misrepresentation of my position.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 21:32

The report on the BBC that Furness Academy had won a judicial review of Ofsted was wrong Andy. It had only won leave to apply for one. But I can't find any framework within which it could successfully win one.

Is there one? Your post implies you think there is.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 09:44

Rebecca@ you're doing it again. I did not imply anything in my post. I did make two points:

1. I understood there was a Judicial Review being pursued
2. The outcome was eagerly awaited.

It's a dry and simple as that, so please stop trying to twist and manipulate things.

Andy's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 09:21

Andy's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 09:22

Try this link on the topic of 'How to complain about Ofsted':

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 17:09

Your link is working Andy. But are you happy that schools can properly resolve the damage Ofsted is doing to them when it behaves in ways which clearly contravene established good practice in inspection and regulation?

Just to clarify - the point of the LRRA(2006) is to create a structure whereby organisations can challenge their regulator to improve that regulator's practice if it is shown to be behaving in ways which are not transparent, proportionate or consistent and which also contravene best practice as established in the regulators code.

If you think state schools should't be given the same protection under this act that private and public schools already have is this because you feel they don't need any rights or because you feel there is a better way of giving them rights?

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 17:34

There are abundantly clear similarities between state and school inspections:

Personally I do not perceive there to be an major differences between treatment of schools in the private sector nor is there a radical difference in avenues of recourse. Both state and private can complain directly to their respective inspection authority and both can take for the judicial review option.

Incidentally, and contrary to regular inferences on LSN the private sector inspection regime is licenced by and through the Education Department:

"ISI is a body approved by the Secretary of State for Education for the purpose of inspecting independent schools under Section 162A of the Education Act 2002."

Inspection framework handbooks and guidance on how to complain for both sectors are in the public domain and readily available and I am therefore at a loss as to what the problem is. After-all I understand that a Cumbrian Academy is still in the process of Judicial Review and we eagerly await the outcome. This seems a system founded on fairness to me.

The fact that some colleagues may for one reason or another have felt personal suffering arising from the inspection process and/or the intensity of the special measures process is deeply regrettable and I am sure all will agree with me that it would be immeasurably better if these incidents could be avoided. However, it can allso be argued that there is no way that any inspection system with its inherent stresses for those involved can be made people safe. We all react to stress and pressure in different ways with different outcomes and one simply can't regulate for that.

The fact that the inspection regime in the state has changed considerably and continues to become more open and transparent is surely indicative that Ofsted are trying to reduce pressures/stresses (e.g. reduced notice time which reduced the time people can worry about the inspection, reduced areas to focus on, reduced amounts of documentation, removal of prescriptive practices regarding T&L etc).

So lets have a level playing field whereby advances are recognised along with areas that require ongoing evolving development.

Leonard James's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 07:14

Isn't the point here that pretty much everyone on the ground has no faith in Ofsted's capabilities to accurately measure anything much less identify any way of driving schools forward.

My assertion is that the methods used by Ofsted are at best limited and at worst invalid. Given the pseudo science it is hardly surprising that Ofsted is stuffed with charismatic bullies and the intellectually limited. Quoting policy isn't going to convince anyone who lives with the fallout from a flawed inspection.

agov's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 10:15

Yes, that is the point.

Next we'll be told that Ofsted reports are not political fiction.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 13:34

I agree that that is the point.

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