What do proposed changes mean for internal assessment?
At the start of 2019, Ofsted launched a consultation on proposed changes to the way it inspects schools. Among the proposals was that schools’ internal performance data for current pupils would not be used as evidence during an inspection. Instead it was proposed that inspectors consider only nationally collected data, alongside direct evidence of the quality of education in schools and ‘meaningful discussions’ with leaders about how they know the curriculum is having an impact.
Following the launch of this consultation, schools have queried whether this move signals a broader position on internal assessment from Ofsted. We’ve been following the conversations about this over the last few weeks and have summarised the key messages below.
Should schools still use non-statutory assessments if Ofsted won’t be looking at the results?
According to Sean Harford, National Director for Education at Ofsted, “nobody is saying stop assessing how pupils are doing.” Addressing what the proposals mean to his followers on Twitter, he makes his message clear: “Assess for children, not for inspection. Use assessment to ‘improve’ not to ‘prove’.”
Sean Harford previously stated in a blog post last year that inspectors are looking to see that a school’s assessment system supports pupils’ journeys through the curriculum, regardless of what assessment system is used and what type of data it generates. The new framework proposals echo this, stating that inspectors will ask schools to explain why they collect the data they do, what they draw from it and how it informs their curriculum and teaching. This approach, it seems, is intended to avoid improper or unnecessary use of assessment. Sean Harford explains: “We want schools to be able to use their own assessment info effectively and without us ‘bending it out of shape’ due to our scrutiny.”
What about standardised assessments?
Some schools have asked whether this exclusion of internal performance data from examination during inspections also includes that from nationally standardised assessments, which many rely on as a core measure of pupil progress. Although confirming that this is the case, Sean Harford has reiterated that this does not discredit their value to schools. On Twitter, he states: “[It is] Not because we don’t think they’re not necessarily valuable, but because Ofsted can’t be the arbiters of what is/isn’t considered a reliable/valid data provider”.
As not all assessments have been as rigorously developed as others, it is understandable that Ofsted cannot evaluate the merit of each. However the benefit of using robust standardised assessments, such as NFER Tests, still remains. Schools using NFER Tests as part of their assessment approach can continue to confidently support their pupils’ journeys through the curriculum with reliable attainment and progress monitoring, and by using information gained through the assessments to guide ongoing teaching and learning. In short, if you find the information they give you valuable in supporting pupils, there is no reason to stop using them.
We'd encourage everyone to get involved in this important consultation on the proposed changes to the Education Inspection Framework, which closes on 5 April 2019. You can find more information on the proposals and how to respond here.