Ofsted’s EIF: Five things you may have missed

Written by: Danny Cuttell | Published:
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This is an interesting article, other reference points for Careers and Employability Education ...

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All school leaders will have digested the ins and outs of the Ofsted Education Inspection Framework by now. Danny Cuttell considers five aspects that you might have missed...

The introduction of a new Ofsted framework always garners much attention and the 2019 Education Inspection Framework (EIF) is no exception.

While much analysis has been given to the renewed focus on the quality of education and how schools are designing and implementing their curriculum, we have identified some other important areas that may have flown under your radar.

Below are five key areas that may have been overlooked in the debate so far:


Q: Are governors skilled and effective in holding the school leadership to account?

Ofsted is looking for effective leadership and management across all elements of the school, rather than it being overly concentrated with a handful of people. Most obviously, this means senior and middle leaders all leading effectively and with unity of purpose and vision, but it also extends to the governors of the school.

In schools “requiring improvement”, there is a common picture of a governing body that functions ineffectively – this might be in terms of the governors lacking relevant skills or expertise, or of the relationship between governors and school leaders being broken. Similarly, governors might lack a basic understanding of their role and therefore stand little chance of being able to hold the school to account.

In contrast, where governors are judged to be performing effectively they are often a driving force for improving the school, being a critical friend to school leaders and bringing additional expertise and insight to the leadership of the school.

Now is a good time to think about whether the governors in your school have a breadth of relevant skills and experience. Do they have a deep understanding of the school’s priorities and its improvement strategy? And do they fully understand the remit of their role in holding the school leadership team to account?

Careers education

Q: Is your school providing an effective careers programme?

The personal development judgement focuses on areas such as the ways in which a school promotes British values, creates responsible citizens and develops pupils’ character and resilience. It also assesses whether a school is providing an effective careers programme in terms of giving pupils:

  • High-quality, unbiased careers advice.
  • Meaningful work experience.
  • Contact and encounters with relevant employers so that pupils understand more about the careers they might pursue.

It is worth trying to get ahead of the curve in thinking about what a sound careers programme looks like in your school. A good starting point – and one that is strongly recommended by the Department for Education (DfE) are the Gatsby Benchmarks. They provide a framework of eight guidelines that define what quality careers provision looks like in secondary schools.

You could adopt this framework in its entirety or take it as a starting point from which you develop your own approach. Either way it will be important to be able to “show and tell” Ofsted what provision you have in place to support career choices.

Workload and wellbeing

Q: In what ways does your school take into consideration the workload and wellbeing of staff?

Ofsted is keen to understand what schools are doing to address teacher workload and wellbeing in response to the wider recruitment and staff retention issue facing schools.

During inspection, it is highly likely that staff will be asked how well supported they feel in their role and what measures leaders take to ensure workload is manageable. This is particularly pertinent where schools are seeking to redevelop or broaden out their curriculum in response to the new framework. In what ways can a school do this without overloading their staff?

Similarly, a school’s assessment policy will be scrutinised in relation to teacher workload. Inspectors will be interested in how assessment and the collection of data is used to inform the teaching and learning but without significantly increasing teachers’ workloads. Think about how the policies and strategies in place in your school represent an efficient use of time and are sustainable for staff.


Q: Is your school fully inclusive in how it provides for the needs of pupils with SEND?

The new framework gives more emphasis to what schools are doing to support SEND students. A key focus here is on inclusion: what are schools doing to ensure pupils with SEND can fully access and make the most of the curriculum in the school? It is important to note that it is not possible to become, or remain, an outstanding school if the school is found not to be inclusive in any way – this is effectively a red line for Ofsted. It is likely focus will be given on areas such as:

  • Whether staff have the training and skills needed to effectively support SEND pupils.
  • The ways in which the curriculum has considered the needs of SEND pupils to ensure they can access it as fully as non-SEND pupils.
  • Whether school leaders and the curriculum have a high level of ambition for SEND pupils – namely, the same level of ambition as for non-SEND pupils. Ofsted has explicitly said that a school should not offer disadvantaged pupils or pupils with SEND a reduced curriculum.

If you look at the “sources of evidence” Ofsted has said it will use when inspecting the quality of a school’s curriculum, it is telling that there is an additional, separate bullet point focusing on how well pupils with SEND are prepared for the next stage of education and their adult lives. The message from Ofsted is clear: this is a framework that places particular emphasis on and scrutiny of how well SEND pupils are supported by schools.

Employability skills

Q: Does your school curriculum develop students’ employability skills?

Hidden among the references in the framework to curriculum and knowledge and sequencing of content is the need for a curriculum to develop the skills needed for future learning and employment. Take this sentence as an example, from the descriptor of an outstanding school: “It (the curriculum) is coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment.”

Much of the debate around the new framework has centred on the need for developing traditional, academic skills. This is clearly important but equally there is a hidden reminder in the framework about the importance of developing core employability skills.

This also surfaces in the personal development judgement, where the framework outlines how “good” secondary schools are those that prepare pupils for future success in education, employment or training. This is a timely opportunity to think first about whether your school has a clear view on what the core employability skills are and second whether those skills are embedded into your curriculum in an effective manner.

  • Danny Cuttell is head of curriculum services at Pearson UK.

Further information & resources

This is an interesting article, other reference points for Careers and Employability Education please see the Career Development Institute and the Careers & Enterprise Company for resources, support and training
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