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Tips for teachers - what the new inspection framework means for you

If you’ve been around for a while as a teacher, you’ve probably lived through a couple of inspection frameworks. You may even recall the days when inspectors would sit in a classroom making notes and then give both feedback and a grade to a petrified teacher! Happily, those days are gone. The new Education Inspection Framework, fondly known as the ‘EIF’, is quite different to previous frameworks which might have appeared to some, to be punitive rather than productive. The new EIF provides much more opportunity for discussion with teachers and for them to explain their approach to teaching.

The best way to understand how the new EIF differs from previous frameworks is to look at what emerges at the end – the inspection report. The new style report looks very different from previous versions and is much shorter. It also reflects where inspectors will focus their energies. The four key ‘judgement areas’ are: the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management.

The new framework is still concerned with what happens in the classroom but in the context of ‘intent, implementation and impact.’ In other words, what is the point of a curriculum or even a lesson? What is the intention behind the provision of an academic, vocational or technical curriculum? Once inspectors have established the intent, they then look at how the intention is turned into a reality – in other words the implementation. The intention will often be articulated by what the headteacher, curriculum leaders or other staff decide. In practice, this could be reflected in schemes of work and lesson plans. Inspectors are interested in the process of teachers’ planning for their sessions or other activities rather than just a product – the lesson plan.

The final area inspectors look at when making a judgement about the quality of education is impact. It might seem that impact is ultimately about whether pupils achieve their qualifications or not. This is partly true, but inspectors are interested in something deeper - what pupils know, do, understand and can remember as a result of their learning? To answer this question, inspectors will undertake ‘deep dives’ as part of their evidence gathering process. This is a bit like research in that inspectors will be trying to ‘join up the dots’ and look at how lessons for example or pupils’ work fit into an overall plan for learning or link to assessment strategies.

“National assessments and examinations are useful indicators of pupils’ outcomes, but they only represent a sample of what pupils have learned. Inspectors will balance outcomes with their first-hand assessment of pupils’ work.” This is how the new EIF handbook describes inspectors’ approach to data. Data is not the be all and end all of teaching and learning. It helps to inform judgements about the quality of education but does not necessarily determine the judgements.

The other key change in the EIF is that inspectors will undertake ‘lesson visits’ previously known as ‘lesson observations’. Whereas before inspectors would ‘sample’ lessons and make a judgement about the quality of a session, under the new framework, the point of ‘lesson visits’ is to see how they fit into a bigger picture. Inspectors will not make isolated judgements about a single lesson. They will be interested in how a lesson contributes to a bigger picture i.e. the learning and progress of pupils. In addition to lesson visits, inspectors might want to speak to teachers about lessons or speak to pupils about lessons, behaviour or their progress.

In the EIF, personal development has been separated out from the judgement of behaviour which now includes attitudes of pupils. These judgements are about the other activities within a school that contribute to a pupil’s development. This could include teaching and promotion of equality and diversity, employability, the promotion of British values and how schools promote the spiritual and moral development of pupils, perhaps during PSHE lessons. Inspectors will be interested in not only how teaching staff manage behaviour but also NQTs, administrative support staff, catering and other staff who interact with pupils.

The judgement about leadership and management remains in the new framework and also includes governance. The key aspects of this judgement are very similar to previous frameworks.

Take away tips

  • Review a couple of recent inspection reports at www.ofsted.gov.uk to get a ‘feel’ for how inspections are conducted under the new framework.
  • During inspections, accept invitations from inspectors to undertake joint lesson visits/joint scrutiny of pupils’ work – this is an invaluable opportunity to learn how inspectors evaluate quality.
  • Ensure you have a secure understanding of your ‘intent’ why you adopt a particular approach to teaching/learning.
  • Prepare for the inspection by using the EIF to self-assess your own provision/curriculum area.


Ruth McGuire has worked as an education inspector and training/education consultant for nearly 20 years.

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