One of the repeatedly suggested levers to pull which would improve CEIAG provision in schools is monitoring from Ofsted. Stakeholders, reports and Education Select Committee recommendations have all suggested that a secondary school’s Careers provision should be judged upon by the Inspectorate. This came to pass with the introduction of instruction for Her Majesty’s Inspectors to include comment of the quality of CEIAG provision in the 2013 and 2014 Handbook for Inspectors. This was taken as a positive step in concentrating the minds of school leaders to prioritise their CEIAG provision. Things changed though with the introduction of Ofsted’s short, targeted inspections of schools currently rated GOOD (grade 2) in September 2015.
This changed the way a large number of schools were visited and assessed and is further explained here but essentially it raised fears that, in a short, one day inspection performed by one inspector for a GOOD school that then remained GOOD, CEIAG would not be inspected. The checklist of school duties for a team of four or five inspectors to monitor over a two-day period cannot be the same for one inspector to check in a one day visit. Ofsted’s workflow guidelines for inspecting a GOOD school reflected this with the requirement for a Section 8 inspection to be carried out instead of a full Section 5.
In it’s justification for this change, Ofsted (with some rationale) argued that, in a supposedly self improving school system, an inspectorate should be focusing its resources on where the system needs them most and that would be on schools graded as 3 or 4. This was in line with the previous move to stop inspecting grade 1 schools as a matter of course and only place them under the microscope if substantive concerns were raised. Others would point out that this was an inevitable consequence of an Inspectorate tasked with inspecting growing types of provision and establishments but with a reducing budget.
Earlier this month, Ofsted released both a consultation on how short inspections had worked and the statistics for the numbers of inspections, including short inspections, from September 2016 to March 2017.
Concentrating on secondary schools, a total of 287 short inspections were carried out, of which 201 schools remained GOOD.
A total of 535 secondary schools were inspected during this period which means that around 37% of secondary school inspections were not even required to pass comment on CEIAG during the academic year.
Ofsted also notes that the number of short inspections that converted to full Section 5 inspections is lower than last year
Twenty nine per cent of short inspections between 1 September 2016 and 31 March 2017 converted to full inspections. In 2015/16, 35% converted.
So, as schools coalesce into the higher grade boundaries but find that OUTSTANDING rating just out of reach, it seems that fewer are undergoing a full Section 5 inspection.
The folks over at Education Data Lab have already done the work in totaling up these numbers to see the complete picture of inspections that have occurred since they were introduced in 2015.
So, from a total of 530 short inspections of secondary schools, 55% in those 18 months would not have been required to offer a judgement on a school’s CEIAG provision.
The most recent Ofsted Annual Report (2015-1016) shows that more secondary schools than ever are being judged as good or outstanding
a rise of 12 percentage points since 2011.
Both the rise in non converting short inspections and the exemption of inspection OUTSTANDING schools leading to 10 years between inspections in some cases
a) it is increasingly less likely that a school’s CEIAG provision will not be monitored during an inspection
b) it is increasingly likely that a judgement on CEIAG provision contained in an Ofsted report is from a school that previously held a grade 3 or 4
and so then
c) the headline trend of rising numbers of GOOD and OUTSTANDING schools offers no evidence to the quality of Careers provision in schools as the Careers provision in these schools will have either i) not have been inspected during the most recent inspection or ii) been inspected quite a number of years ago.
Under the current framework of inspection, Ofsted is no substantive barometer of the quality of Careers provision in schools now and, if the current trends continue, will only be more out of snyc with provision in the future.