Exam results and grades will no longer be the key focus of Ofsted inspections in England, under new plans.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman says the focus on performance data has narrowed what is taught in schools.
She said, in a speech in Newcastle on Thursday, inspections hadplaced too much weight on exam results.
Teachers and heads have long argued education watchdog Ofsted’s focus on data, along with school league tables, has made schools “exam factories”.
Chris Keates, leader of the Nasuwt teachers’ union, said teachers would welcome plans to “shift the focus of inspection and treat teachers as experts, rather than data managers”.
But the National Association of Head Teachers warned against changes being “rushed through” without adequate consultation with school leaders.
The proposals are likely to make it easier for inspectors to recognise the good work done by schools in challenging circumstances.
In her speech to the Schools NorthEast summit, acknowledged that the current inspection model had led to “excessive workload” in some schools.
“For a long time, our inspections have looked hardest at outcomes, placing too much weight on test and exam results when we consider the overall effectiveness of schools,” she said.
“The cumulative impact of performance tables and inspections, and the consequences that are hung on them, has increased the pressure on school leaders, teachers and indirectly on pupils to deliver perfect data above all else.
“But we know that focusing too narrowly on test and exam results can often leave little time or energy for hard thinking about the curriculum, and in fact can sometimes end up making a casualty of it.
“The bottom line is that we must make sure that we, as an inspectorate, complement rather than intensify performance data.”
She suggested teachers have been reduced to “data managers” rather than being treated as “experts in their field”.
“I don’t know a single teacher who went into teaching to get the perfect Progress 8 score [a measure of pupil progress].
“They go into it because they love what they teach and want children to love it too,” said the chief inspector.
The biggest planned change to the inspection framework is that the section based on “pupil outcomes” (exam results) is likely to be replaced with a new judgement for “quality of education”.
But there are also changes planned for the other categories.
The new planned judgement headings are:
- personal development
- behaviour and attitudes
- schools’ leadership and management.
The four categories currently used for Ofsted inspections are:
- effectiveness of leadership and management
- quality of teaching, learning and assessment
- personal development, behaviour and welfare
- outcomes for children and learners.
Ofsted will launch a consultation on the new set of inspection categories in a new framework in January, in the hope of starting to use them at the start of the school year in September 2019.
Nick Brook, deputy leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said a new approach to inspection is “long overdue”.
“What concerns us is that Ofsted’s new framework is due to be implemented in less than 12 months’ time and it has not left itself enough time to introduce change of the magnitude that’s being suggested.
“There’s a real risk that not all schools will understand it and not all inspectors will apply it consistently.”