8 December 2014

  |  CBI Updates Team

News

Ofsted Consultation – Better Inspection for All

The CBI welcomes the opportunity to respond to this Ofsted consultation on the proposals for a new framework for inspection.

As the UK’s leading business organisation, speaking for some 190,000 businesses that together employ around a third of the private sector workforce, the CBI knows that improvements in education are a key economic priority. With offices in Brussels, Washington, Beijing and Delhi to communicate the British business voice internationally as well as across the UK, the CBI is aware of rising global educational standards and of the pressing need to raise overall levels of attainment in the UK’s school systems. 

The CBI believes that improving our education system and outcomes for young people is the most important long-term investment that the UK can make to enhance growth in the economy. Accountability measures – and in particular Ofsted – are a key driver of behaviour in teachers and school leaders, and we therefore welcome the focus on ensuring that this is incentivising the correct outcomes that we need for young people, for business and for the economy. In this response, we set out that:

  • We need an education and skills system that supports and encourages the holistic development of young people, with a focus on attitudes and behaviours as well as knowledge and skills.
  • Employers have a role to play in supporting improved standards across the board, but more needs to be done to ensure that relationships between education and businesses are encouraged and facilitated.
  • Leaders and governors are at the heart of embedding change on the ground, and this needs to remain a key focus to ensure high quality provision.
  • A move towards a system of ‘quality assurance’ for successful schools will help provide teaching professionals the space and flexibility to continually innovate and improve – rather than being restrained by bureaucratic processes.
  • A consistent message about the outcomes we want our system to achieve will help to ensure that young people are developing the right knowledge, skills and characteristics throughout their time in education


We must also continue to view these proposed reforms as a part of the wider package of change currently underway within the education and skills system in this country. We need cohesive reforms that will create a system that prepares all young people for success in whichever route they choose to follow.  

Our report First Steps should be considered as a part of our evidence and wider background to our positioning on this topic.

 

We need an education and skills system that supports and encourages the holistic development of young people, with a focus on attitudes and behaviours as well as knowledge and skills.

As set out in our First Steps report, published in 2012, employers are clear that a successful education system is one which equips young people with the attitudes, behaviours and characteristics that are needed for success in a work environment. Determination, resilience, creativity and emotional intelligence – for example – are a crucial part of the picture that employers want to see as a key focus in schools.

We know that accountability measures are a key determinant of the focus for school and college leaders and teachers, so have been calling for a shift in the frameworks to ensure that these are driving the behaviour we need to create a system that delivers the desired outcomes for young people. This requires reform of the inspection framework so that schools and colleges focus equally on academic progression and on the development of attitudes and attributes. As such, the increased emphasis on preparation for life and work in the proposed framework is a welcome step in the right direction.

But this must go further – a framework that places more equal weight on this wider personal development as on academic progress and attainment is needed to make this a priority in all schools and colleges.

In particular, the inclusion of ‘personal development’ as a focus within the judgement on behaviour resonates well with business – as this serves to clearly highlight to schools, colleges and teachers the importance of this aspect of a young person’s development.

But this needs to be more highly prioritised, placing personal development within the framework at the highest level – as a separate graded judgement.

There also remain some areas where the framework needs to be made more explicit. The proposed framework states that this judgement should (in part) look at how well provision is supporting the development of ‘employability skills’ where relevant – but this is not enough. The skills and characteristics that we are asking schools and colleges to focus on are applicable at all ages, and should be developed at all stages of a young person’s education. This is why we have moved away from the term ‘employability skills’, instead focussing on the attitudes and behaviours that will set people up for success in life and work such as resilience, curiosity, creativity and emotional intelligence. The chart below – taken from First Steps – sets this out in more detail.

 

This is also more easily applicable to children throughout their educational journey.

It is essential that we focus on developing behaviours such as determination, confidence and responsibility in children in primary school in England - as is already happening in Scotland through implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence. This must be made explicit in the inspection framework. 

The recognition of the benefits of work experience to a young person’s wider development is supported by business. The value of experience of the workplace – through traditional placements, shadowing, site visits or working on projects for example – cannot be underestimated. While this inclusion is welcome, it will not be enough alone to ensure that all young people are benefitting from these valuable employer interactions.

This is why the CBI is calling for the requirement for work related learning to be restored to the curriculum at KS4 to ensure that this is a real priority for schools, with a focus on quality and relevance for both young people and employers themselves.

 

Employers have a role to play in supporting improved standards across the board, but more needs to be done to ensure that relationships between education and businesses are encouraged and facilitated.

As a part of the wider community, employers have a clear role to play in supporting young people and education institutions – but more and more employers are also seeing engagement with schools and colleges as a part of a longer-term business strategy. There are clear benefits from business interaction with education – not only to the schools, colleges and young people, but also to the businesses and their employees. We know from our annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey that many employers already are engaging with schools and colleges – 80% of those that we surveyed in 2014 – in a variety of different ways, from offering work experience and supporting careers guidance, to supporting employees in acting as governors and delivering practical support for leadership. But there is still scope to scale this up.  

We are concerned that the references to employer engagement in education within the framework are not sufficiently robust or prominent to have the desired impact on levels of interaction. Clearer references to the different ways in which schools and headteachers should be engaging with businesses – for example around curriculum development or careers guidance – would be beneficial to schools and colleges, but also to the employers who will be involved.

We want to see the importance of employer engagement expressed more prominently in the framework itself - and covered in more detail in the inspection handbooks that will accompany the framework.

The idea that school leaders should work with stakeholders including business to improve standards in other providers across the community is an interesting one as not only does business have a responsibility to the local community, but improving standards more broadly is in their interest. While in principle this seems sensible, business will need clarity over what this means in practice and what will be expected of employers.

There is one particular aspect of employer engagement that needs to be defined more explicitly in the framework – around careers guidance. We welcome the increased focus on ensuring quality provision, as it is strong careers guidance that will make young people aware of all the opportunities available to them and ensure that they are set on the pathway to success. In particular, the reference to ensuring young people have knowledge on all choices available to them – both academic and vocational – is to be supported, as the funding regime is often seen to encourage the wrong behaviour in this respect.

While we are aware that the statutory guidance for schools around careers guidance makes clear the vital role that employers have to play in any system of careers, this needs to be highlighted within the revised Ofsted framework. Without strong and effective employer engagement, careers guidance will not be successful in ensuring young people are aware of what employers are looking for in potential recruits, or inspiring them to follow particular career pathways.

The importance of involving employers and businesses in careers provision and work inspiration must be explicitly stated within the framework, and should form a part of how schools and colleges are judged.

However – we know that for many businesses, schools and colleges, there are often challenges in building and maintaining links with each other. This is another area in which we must look at the wider landscape to assess the potential effects of the proposed framework. 

Too often, representatives from the different institutions or organisations are unable to successfully initiate relationships – or are unaware of what the most valuable contribution a business can make would be. As set out in our paper Future Possible, there would be real value in the creation of a nationally mandated and funded, but locally focussed, system of brokerage to help build these valuable relationships between the different stakeholders. 

 

Leaders and governors are at the heart of embedding change on the ground, and this needs to remain a key focus to ensure high quality provision.

As in business, high quality leadership is central to driving improvements in schools and colleges – and we are glad to see that this remains a focus within the framework. In our First Steps report, we set out that a key element of any successful education system is ensuring there are high aspirations and ambitions for all young people, and therefore the need for leadership to demonstrate this chimes well with our campaign. The aim of education should be to prepare young people for success in life and work, so the emphasis on ensuring that all learners are equipped to take their next steps is the right one – particularly relevant around careers guidance, as we have set out above.

We also welcome the assertion that leaders should be assessed on how well they ensure that the curriculum is suitably broad – and relevant to the needs of employers. This is particularly relevant to vocational and technical education, where this is appropriate, and this should be emphasised.

As with other aspects of judgement referred to within the draft framework, we would expect to see the requirement to ensure that the curriculum is relevant to the needs of employers covered in more detail in the accompanying inspection handbooks.

The focus for leadership must be on outcomes and what is best for young people – not on narrow measurements and perverse incentives driven by league tables. We need to ensure that the accountability system drives the right behaviour, and while many of the proposed changes to the framework are a positive step forward – it is important to assess how this will interact with the other incentives faced by headteachers, principals and governors.

 

A move towards a system of ‘quality assurance’ for successful schools will help provide teaching professionals the space and flexibility to continually innovate and improve – rather than being restrained by bureaucratic processes.

The proposals that schools judged as good will now only receive a ‘light touch’ inspection every three years in normal circumstances is in line with our call for a shift to a system of quality assurance rather than quality inspection – a shift that was seen in business practices in the past.

This, in conjunction with more narrative style reporting, will better enable teachers to excel and to deliver the innovative, inspiring lessons that engage young people in their education and inspire them about the different opportunities available to them – without the perceived threat of an Ofsted inspection hanging over their head. Enabling this flexibility for teachers and leaders to drive improvements in the best way for their school and their pupils is likely to lead to an increase in standards and outcomes.

The next step will be to ensure that provisions for monitoring situations and circumstances in the interim are robust enough to ensure that no young person is receiving a sub-standard education as a result of these changes. Local and national structures will need to be assessed to guarantee quality in all schools.

 

A consistent message about the outcomes we want our system to achieve will help to ensure that young people are developing the right knowledge, skills and characteristics throughout their time in education.

The proposal to introduce a single framework for inspection from early years through to further education will help to bring more cohesion to the sector, and better ensure that the focus on desired outcomes is common between all settings at all stages. It is important that we are preparing young people to thrive and succeed throughout their time in education – and the overall outcomes that we are looking for are no different at 4 or 19.

In principle, this move to a single framework is to be welcomed, but it will be important to ensure that schools, colleges and early years settings are given the flexibility to adapt the framework according to the age range of the individuals to whom it will apply in their institutions.

The differences in size, focus and responsibility of the different levels and forms of education require some variation in judgement and inspection, and this must be taken into account.