Changes to the Ofsted inspection framework

Partnerships Director, Holly Donagh, runs through some of the proposals in the new Ofsted inspection framework, and considers what they may mean for arts education

19 February 2019

A New Direction has hosted two meetings over the last month on the new Ofsted inspection framework consultation. The first of these was with cultural partners, alerting them to the changes and reflecting on what it might mean for cultural education, the second was with senior leaders in London schools and was designed to get their insight to inform our response to the consultation.

You may have seen the discussion in the press about the new framework moving away from a judgement that is all about exam scores towards something more holistic around ‘the quality of education’. All of this is apparently good news for our sector.

The proposals

The consultation is described as ‘an important evolution of current inspection arrangements’. It is set out as a series of proposals.

Proposal 1 is the introduction of a new ‘quality of education’ judgement, built around Ofsted’s working definition of the curriculum, focussing on a provider’s intent, implementation and impact.

This is where there is potentially most to be encouraged by in terms of arts and cultural education, as there is an emphasis on breadth of curriculum and a concerted effort to move schools away from teaching to the test (e.g. SATs) and narrowing the curriculum (e.g. starting GCSEs in Year 9). Ofsted’s aim is to discourage schools from teaching to the test, and to prevent them from narrowing the curriculum either too early in a child’s education or because of their needs or circumstances. However, there is still an emphasis on Ebacc.

Cultural capital

The mention of cultural capital in the inspection framework is new and has its own heading in the school’s inspection handbook – this is positive!

As part of making the judgement about the quality of education, inspectors will consider the extent to which schools are equipping pupils with the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.’
There is no conflict between teaching a broad, rich curriculum and achieving success in examinations and tests…[inspectors will consider] what the school has in place to ensure that the most disadvantaged pupils and pupils with SEND are given the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.

Whilst this is undoubtedly positive it will be tempered by the continuing emphasis on EBacc, and the limitations of the national curriculum.

Proposal 2

‘Personal development’ will be judged separately from ‘behaviour and attitudes’. These are currently judged together, which is complicated.

There are potentially opportunities for arts and cultural education around personal development, as this is where SMSC (social, moral, spiritual and cultural education) and things like character, resilience, British Values all sit.

What next?

The consultation closes on the 05 April - A New Direction will be making a response and we urge other arts and cultural organisations to do the same.

Find out more about issuing a response

If the proposals are ratified, there will undoubtedly be a lot of schools wanting to understand the cultural aspects of their curriculum more fully and thinking about how they provide the foundation for broader enrichment in and out of schools. Arts organisations have a huge amount to offer in this context and it will be a good time to engage schools in new conversations about the place of the arts in their work.

We are also keen to gather teachers' opinions to include in A New Direction's response - if you are a teacher and would like to share your thoughts, please email