Ofsted should only judge a school Outstanding if it is able to support other schools to improve and is actively doing so, according to the education charity Challenge Partners, which works with more than 400 schools nationwide.
It welcomed Ofsted’s review of its inspection regime but urged it it to look more widely at evidence of what does work - including collaboration and the widespread use of peer review in schools across the country.
Challenge Partners believes that if the inspection system is to drive school improvement, it must more clearly incentivise the top performing schools to share their expertise with others. The top grade should be renamed ‘Leading’, rather than Outstanding and a school should only become a Leading school if it can show it shares expertise meaningfully with others.
In evidence submitted to Ofsted’s EIF consultation, Challenge Partners urges Ofsted to:
- look for and value evidence that headteachers are inviting challenge through peer review, looking outward, collaborating and sharing best practice to secure continuous improvement in their schools
- only award Outstanding judgements to schools which are supporting other schools to improve
- maintain its focus on outcomes for the children in greatest need, whether from disadvantaged backgrounds or those with special educational needs and disabilities
"School leaders are already working across the country on peer reviews and collaboration which together drive improvement in the performance of individual schools and the wider system. We have found that trusting teachers and school leaders to challenge themselves and each other, in an open process, works really well and enables them to share excellent practice and discuss issues freely,” said Dr Kate Chhatwal, CEO of Challenge Partners.
Dr Chhatwal added that acknowledging the value of peer review, and recognising its ability to complement inspection, could allow Ofsted to focus more of its resources on inspection of schools perceived to have serious problems. “Harnessing the capacity of the system is crucial if we are to achieve a truly self-improving, school-led system. As Ofsted aims to promote improvement, it should do more to recognise the impact of those schools and organisations that are active agents of school improvement.”
George Croxford, Headteacher of Royal Wootton Bassett Academy and CEO of Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Trust said: “The profession welcomes challenge to get better and better and through peer review we are able to do that in a cost effective way to improve schools’ teaching and learning.”
Challenge Partners also urged Ofsted to widen their research base, ensure all inspections are led by fully trained and experienced HMIs or practitioners, and to consider schools’ own evidence of progress, to ensure they can make nuanced judgments which are evidence-based and give schools greater assurance about their reliability.
Carolyn Morgan, CEO of Ascent Academies' Trust said: “The research overview used to develop the framework is entirely mainstream-based and includes no research base for those with SEND. In an inclusive education system, we would expect to see research used that reflect the whole system, as opposed to parts of the system.”
Schools in the Challenge Partners network work together to identify the knowledge and skills of the best, and facilitate collaboration with others, to reduce variability in provision, drive up standards and give all children a great education.
Over the last eight years, Challenge Partners has facilitated almost 2,000 peer reviews for individual schools and multi-academy trusts and the charity’s quality assurance process was found to offer multiple gains in independent research by the Institute of Education. There is also evidence that pupils in Challenge Partner schools achieve more and progress faster than the national average and the gap between the performance of disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils is lower in partner schools than nationally.
Notes for Editors
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The report Multiple Gains by Peter Matthews and Marcia Headon, UCL Institute of Education can be read online: https://www.challengepartners.org/sites/default/files/files/Multiple%20Gains.pdf
Challenge Partners helps schools work together to reduce educational inequality and enhance the life chances of all children. Through collaboration, challenge and professional development it is working to ensure every school can benefit from the combined wisdom of the education system. Find out more: www.challengepartners.org