Ofsted’s latest Common inspection Framework for September 2015 is now in force. You can read the document here

This framework brings together all educational settings to ensure there is consistency of inspection between Early Years settings, Maintained schools and Academies, Non-Association Independent schools and Further Education skills providers. This includes special schools, Pupil Referral units and Maintained Nurseries.

The emphasis for the new framework is to look at school leaders’ vision, culture and the ethos of the school to see how they provide for their most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people. All children, including those with physical difficulties, learning difficulties and those with profound and complex neurological conditions should make good progress from their starting points. Schools and education establishments are accountable for their progress.

I have blogged previously on the new framework so I don’t need to go in to too much detail here. New short inspections for good schools lasting for one day are the order of the day. HMI will consult with school leaders and discuss strengths and weaknesses as identified by the schools themselves. The assumption will be that the grade remains the same and leaders will provide the evidence to support this assumption. If inspectors are not satisfied a full inspection will be triggered when the grade may be changed or confirmed. These short inspections will occur approximately every 3 years. This will also apply to special schools, PRUs and maintained nurseries that were judged to be outstanding at their last inspection. These schools are not exempt from inspection. Outstanding mainstream schools will remain outside of the inspection process.

Another change is that from September many school leaders will be Ofsted Inspectors originating from good or outstanding schools. This has the added advantage of creating a climate of trust between Ofsted and schools.

Personally I am in favour of the inspectorate. There has to be accountability within education as vast amounts of money are invested in the system. That said I am slightly disappointed in this latest framework and I feel that some special schools, including mine are being unfairly treated.

I discussed this with my Head teacher friend Mary Isherwood (@Mishwood1) yesterday evening. Mary is a trained Ofsted Inspector and she informed me that there is some uncertainty as to whether the 3 years for outstanding special schools inspection would be from the date of the last inspection or from the start of this term.

This is a huge bone of contention for me and for the school where I am Assistant Head Teacher. Our last inspection was in April 2014 where we were judged Outstanding for the third consecutive time. My school, along with many special schools up and down the country strives to provide the best education possible for each and every child. There are no generic targets and every child has a personalised pathway to suit their individual needs. Children at my school make the required amount of progress and if not as data leader I need to know the reason why in order to report back to my Head Teacher. We have high expectations of all our children and all will succeed to the best of their ability.

As we have been judged to be outstanding 3 times my school was previously on a 5 year inspection cycle. I am not necessarily promoting that we be placed outside the inspection process. I understand there are some issues with data which makes national comparison for our children very difficult. However, I would argue that if we can’t have parity with mainstream schools can we at least remain as we were. I can see no justification for moving us to a 3 year cycle, albeit on a short inspection.

I have had a conversation with @HarfordSean, Ofsted’s National Director this morning and he has confirmed that we are indeed on a 3 year cycle. I am in favour of all the positive changes made to the inspection framework recently and I particularly like the way Sean is talking to the profession. That said, I am disappointed with what I feel is a backwards move for special schools.