NFER welcomes the intention behind the new Ofsted Framework, but warns of unintended consequences

Press Release

Friday 12 April 2019

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has advised that Ofsted’s proposal to no longer use schools’ internal performance data as inspection evidence is well meant, but there is a risk that this may have a negative impact on the use of data by schools to drive improvements for children.

In its response to the new Ofsted inspection framework consultation, NFER said it supported measures to try to tackle teacher workload, including eliminating unnecessary and unhelpful data collection. However, the Foundation expressed concerns that this may result in some school leaders and teachers no longer using data to help improve children's learning.

In NFER’s most recent Teacher Voice Omnibus Survey, school leaders were asked why they shared their data with Ofsted inspectors. Nearly three-quarters said one reason was to show the school was using data to self-improve. If schools interpret the proposed policy to mean Ofsted are no longer interested in the use of data, there is a risk that school leaders and teachers may stop using data to self-improve altogether, resulting in many good practices being lost.

The other reasons why school leaders share their own internal data with Ofsted inspectors should also be considered carefully, and include:

  • to provide greater context about the performance / outcomes of a subgroup of pupils or the results at a key stage (79 per cent);
  • to highlight the impact of an intervention or change that the school had implemented (67 per cent);
  • because the data that Ofsted inspectors had was out of date and the school had more up-to-date information (43 per cent).

NFER suggests that Ofsted should develop guidelines for schools explaining how using appropriate data can help to drive improvements in children’s learning, and to provide examples of where this has been effective. They could also provide examples where data has not added value, building on the Teacher Workload Advisory Group report. To understand why schools want to share their own data with inspectors, Ofsted should encourage school leaders to focus on explaining the way they identified issues and the process by which they addressed them.

Carole Willis, Chief Executive at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), said: “We welcome Ofsted’s consultation on the 2019 Education Inspection Framework and support efforts to ensure inspection does not create excessive work for teachers, through eliminating unnecessary and unhelpful collection of data.

“However, school leaders can and should be using proportionate data to manage their schools, and reviewing the progress children and teachers are making in order to inform decisions about running the school. Ofsted will need to avoid sending an unintended signal that schools and teachers should not be using data at all to inform and improve their practice.”

NFER’s full response to the consultation is available to read here.

Full findings from the Teacher Voice Omnibus Survey March 2019 can be viewed here.