Moving forward with a new workforce

Sir Robin Bosher

This autumn term is a momentous time for Ofsted. Alongside our new common inspection framework and short inspections, which you may have read about in Sean’s recent blog, we’ve introduced new ways of working and made some positive changes to our inspection workforce.

The aim of our reforms is to make ongoing improvements to the quality, consistency and impact of Ofsted’s work across the sectors we inspect.

In addition to our directly employed Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI), we’ve welcomed a new cohort of contracted Ofsted Inspectors (OIs) who will lead or be team members on the new education inspections. Our contracts with the inspection service providers have now come to an end, so we’ve brought the selection and training of inspectors in-house.

Around 1,400 OIs are ready to inspect schools, colleges and training providers across England from this week and another 150 OIs are finalising their training and will begin to inspect later in the year. Today, we’ve published the list of our new OI cohort on our website alongside FAQs about the new workforce.

Training and development

As part of the effort to get everyone ready for the new inspections, we’ve run over 30 induction, training and development events over the summer, with participants giving up some cherished holiday to attend. I was at 11 of these and the atmosphere has certainly been invigorating; the inspectors I spoke to all found the training ‘well-designed’, ‘carefully thought out’ and ‘comprehensive’.

We are also training some of the OIs to quality assure reports and to investigate any complaints against Ofsted at the initial stage. This of course will greatly support our day-to-day operations, but we also see the role of serving practitioner OIs to help us shape up inspection policy, drawing on their expertise of what works and what doesn’t work in inspection from the point of view of providers.

High-calibre individuals

I’m really pleased that we’re in this privileged position of having in place such a strong contingent of inspectors with a range of expertise and specialisms.

Our OIs are very skilled and competent professionals with a track record of effective leadership in the sectors we inspect. Seven out of 10 of our OIs are serving leaders from good and outstanding schools and colleges. As a former teacher and headteacher of many years standing, I think there are real mutual benefits to this. The serving leaders act as a direct link to the sectors and communities we serve and will constantly refresh Ofsted’s working knowledge of what it’s like to lead improvement at the chalk face. In turn, they’ll be able to use their experiences and skills gained on inspection to improve their own, and in some cases, other, institutions.

Quality of inspection

As part of our new quality assurance arrangements, our team of almost 400 employed HMI and Senior HMI will be responsible for overseeing inspection quality. They’ll mentor OIs and spend time out in the field advising and supporting them. I strongly believe that excellent ongoing training, consistent support and close partnership working between our HMI and OIs are crucial to this, and my conversations with inspectors show me that they’re relishing the opportunity to work more directly with each other.

This will help ensure that all stages of the inspection process – the preparation, gathering and securing of evidence, determination of judgements and communication with providers – is carried out to our enhanced and exacting quality standards. It will also mean that an inspector’s practice is evaluated in the same way regardless of whether they‘re inspecting in Sunderland, Sheffield, Swindon or Southend.

Whether they’re employed HMI or contracted OIs, our inspectors are our most valuable resource and we’ll continue to place a high value on their training and development. I’m confident that overseeing inspector contracts directly is the right way forward in making sure that every one of the thousands of inspections we undertake each year is delivered to the high standard that providers rightly expect.

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1 comment

  1. Terry Pearson

    This sounds very impressive and is full of optimistic and affirmative language. I sincerely hope the new ways of working and the new inspection workforce achieve the aim of improving the quality, consistency and impact of Ofsted’s work. For too long now these aspects of inspection have been too variable, considering the high stakes nature of the outcomes.

    I too have high hopes for the new inspection process, after all we shouldn’t be entertaining an inspection system that does aim to be at least as good as those in other countries. Nevertheless I am still unclear about the potential of the changes for attaining the anticipated results. Let me briefly explain why.

    Bringing the training of inspectors in-house may sound like a positive move, but it depends, of course, on the quality of the training inspectors receive. In-house training compared to external training is not in itself a guarantee of better training and there clearly needs to be some radical changes to inspector training to improve the validity and reliability of inspection findings. Even if the new training atmosphere was ‘invigorating’ and all inspectors found the training ‘well-designed’, ‘carefully thought out’ and ‘comprehensive’ none of these outcomes are necessarily indicators of training effectiveness. It would therefore have been useful to publish the outcomes of the external review of the training, if this has been done, to reassure all concerned of the quality of the training.

    It is also not clear what methods Ofsted is going to deploy to assess the quality of inspection practice. “Quality assuring” inspection reports is obviously a necessary activity, so too is mentoring new inspectors in the field but these are by no means sufficient for assessing the robustness of inspection practice. Ofsted needs a system for checking the trustworthiness of the inspection methodology which investigates the collection of credible inspection evidence and subsequent judgement making process. Much concern was raised earlier this year about the reliability of inspection judgements and yet we have not seen any results of the reliability “tests” that were carried out in the spring term. It would have been helpful to have some indication of the findings of the “tests” by now.

    I am also not sure why there has been a move to include more practising teachers/leaders in inspection teams. This may improve the face validity of inspections but there is no credible evidence to show that practising teachers/leaders are more effective at collecting credible inspection evidence and reaching dependable inspection judgements. On the contrary, there is a base of evidence to show that current practitioners are more likely to make inaccurate judgements of teaching quality through increased personal bias.

    However, as mentioned earlier I remain hopeful about the new inspection process not least because education and training organisations are entitled to an inspection system that is implemented to the highest standards.

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