Ofsted Grade Descriptors, Sept 2015. Guest post by Shena Lewington

Ofsted’s Common Inspection Framework has been published and is effective from September 2015. In this guest post, Shena Lewington has, very helpfully, extracted the grade descriptors for overall effectiveness, effectiveness of leadership and management, teaching, learning and assessment, personal development, behaviour and welfare and outcomes for pupils. Grade descriptors for Early Years (page 62) and 16-19 are not included.

From Ofsted’s School Inspection Handbook (September 2015), as published 28th August 2015:

Grade descriptors for overall effectiveness (page 37 of Handbook)

Outstanding (1)

  • The quality of teaching, learning and assessment is outstanding.
  • All other key judgements are likely to be outstanding. In exceptional circumstances one of the key judgements may be good, as long as there is convincing evidence that the school is improving this area rapidly and securely towards outstanding.
  • The school’s thoughtful and wide-ranging promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and their physical well-being enables pupils to thrive.
  • Safeguarding is effective.

Good (2)

  • The quality of teaching, learning and assessment is at least good.
  • All other key judgements are likely to be good or outstanding. In exceptional circumstances, one of the key judgement areas may require improvement, as long as there is convincing evidence that the school is improving it rapidly and securely towards good.
  • Deliberate and effective action is taken to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and their physical well-being.
  • Safeguarding is effective.

Requires improvement (3)

  • Other than in exceptional circumstances, it is likely that, where the school is judged to require improvement in any of the key judgements, the school’s overall effectiveness will require improvement.
  • There are weaknesses in the overall promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
  • Safeguarding is effective.

Inadequate (4)

  • The judgement on the overall effectiveness is likely to be inadequate where any one of the key judgements is inadequate and/or safeguarding is ineffective and/or there are serious weaknesses in the overall promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

Grade descriptors for the effectiveness of leadership and management (page 42 of Handbook)

Note: Grade descriptors are not a checklist. Inspectors adopt a ‘best fit’ approach that relies on the professional judgement of the inspection team.

Outstanding (1)

  • Leaders and governors have created a culture that enables pupils and staff to excel. They are committed unwaveringly to setting high expectations for the conduct of pupils and staff. Relationships between staff and pupils are exemplary.
  • Leaders and governors focus on consistently improving outcomes for all pupils, but especially for disadvantaged pupils. They are uncompromising in their ambition.
  • The school’s actions have secured substantial improvement in progress for disadvantaged pupils. Progress is rising across the curriculum, including in English and mathematics.
  • Governors systematically challenge senior leaders so that the effective deployment of staff and resources, including the pupil premium, the primary PE and sport premium and SEN funding, secures excellent outcomes for pupils. Governors do not shy away from challenging leaders about variations in outcomes for pupil groups, especially between disadvantaged and other pupils.
  • Leaders and governors have a deep, accurate understanding of the school’s effectiveness informed by the views of pupils, parents and staff. They use this to keep the school improving by focusing on the impact of their actions in key areas.
  • Leaders and governors use incisive performance management that leads to professional development that encourages, challenges and supports teachers’ improvement. Teaching is highly effective across the school.
  • Staff reflect on and debate the way they teach. They feel deeply involved in their own professional development. Leaders have created a climate in which teachers are motivated and trusted to take risks and innovate in ways that are right for their pupils.
  • The broad and balanced curriculum inspires pupils to learn. The range of subjects and courses helps pupils acquire knowledge, understanding and skills in all aspects of their education, including the humanities and linguistic, mathematical, scientific, technical, social, physical and artistic learning.
  • Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and, within this, the promotion of fundamental British values, are at the heart of the school’s work.
  • Leaders promote equality of opportunity and diversity exceptionally well, for pupils and staff, so that the ethos and culture of the whole school prevents any form of direct or indirect discriminatory behaviour. Leaders, staff and pupils do not tolerate prejudiced behaviour.
  • Safeguarding is effective. Leaders and managers have created a culture of vigilance where pupils’ welfare is actively promoted. Pupils are listened to and feel safe. Staff are trained to identify when a pupil may be at risk of neglect, abuse or exploitation and they report their concerns. Leaders and staff work effectively with external partners to support pupils who are at risk or who are the subject of a multi-agency plan.
  • Leaders’ work to protect pupils from radicalisation and extremism is exemplary. Leaders respond swiftly where pupils are vulnerable to these issues. High quality training develops staff’s vigilance, confidence and competency to challenge pupils’ views and encourage debate.

Good (2)

  • Leaders set high expectations of pupils and staff. They lead by example to create a culture of respect and tolerance. The positive relationships between leaders, staff and pupils support the progress of all pupils at the school.
  • Leaders and governors are ambitious for all pupils and promote improvement effectively. The school’s actions secure improvement in disadvantaged pupils’ progress, which is rising, including in English and mathematics.
  • Leaders and governors have an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the quality of education at the school. This helps them plan, monitor and refine actions to improve all key aspects of the school’s work.
  • Leaders and governors use performance management effectively to improve teaching. They use accurate monitoring to identify and spread good practice across the school.
  • Teachers value the continuing professional development provided by the school. It is having a positive impact on their teaching and pupils’ learning. Teaching is consistently strong across the school or, where it is not, it is improving rapidly.
  • Governors hold senior leaders stringently to account for all aspects of the school’s performance, including the use of pupil premium, the primary PE and sport premium and SEN funding, ensuring that the skilful deployment of staff and resources delivers good or improving outcomes for pupils.
  • The broad and balanced curriculum provides a wide range of opportunities for pupils to learn. The range of subjects and courses helps pupils acquire knowledge, understanding and skills in all aspects of their education, including the humanities and linguistic, mathematical, scientific, technical, social, physical and artistic learning. This supports pupils’ good progress. The curriculum also contributes well to pupils’ behaviour and welfare, including their physical, mental and personal well-being, safety and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
  • Leaders consistently promote fundamental British values and pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
  • Leaders promote equality of opportunity and diversity, resulting in a positive school culture. Staff and pupils work together to prevent any form of direct or indirect discriminatory behaviour. Leaders, staff and pupils do not tolerate prejudiced behaviour.
  • Safeguarding is effective. Leaders and staff take appropriate action to identify pupils who may be at risk of neglect, abuse or sexual exploitation, reporting concerns and supporting the needs of those pupils.
  • Leaders protect pupils from radicalisation and extremism. Staff are trained and are increasingly vigilant, confident and competent to encourage open discussion with pupils.

Requires improvement (3)

  • Leadership and management are not yet good.
  • Safeguarding is effective.

Inadequate (4)

Leadership and management are likely to be inadequate if one or more of the following applies.

  • Capacity for securing further improvement is poor and the improvements leaders and governors have made are unsustainable, have been implemented too slowly or are overly dependent on external support.
  • Leaders are not doing enough to tackle poor teaching, learning and assessment, which significantly impairs the progress of pupils, especially those who are disadvantaged, disabled or have special educational needs.
  • Leaders are not aware of, or are not taking effective action to stem, the decline in the progress of disadvantaged pupils.
  • The unbalanced and poorly taught curriculum fails to meet the needs of pupils or particular groups of pupils.
  • The range of subjects is narrow and does not prepare pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life in modern Britain.
  • Leaders are not taking effective steps to secure good behaviour from pupils and a consistent approach to discipline.
  • Leaders and governors, through their words, actions or influence, directly and/or indirectly, undermine or fail to promote equality of opportunity. They do not prevent discriminatory behaviour and prejudiced actions and views.
  • Safeguarding is ineffective. The school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils do not meet statutory requirements, or they give serious cause for concern or insufficient action is taken to remedy weaknesses following a serious incident.
  • Leaders and governors are not protecting pupils from radicalisation and extremist views when pupils are vulnerable to these. Policy and practice are poor, which means pupils are at risk.

Grade descriptors for the quality of teaching, learning and assessment (page 48 of Handbook)

Note: Grade descriptors are not a checklist. Inspectors adopt a ‘best fit’ approach that relies on the professional judgement of the inspection team.

Outstanding (1)

  • Teachers demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding of the subjects they teach. They use questioning highly effectively and demonstrate understanding of the ways pupils think about subject content. They identify pupils’ common misconceptions and act to ensure they are corrected.
  • Teachers plan lessons very effectively, making maximum use of lesson time and coordinating lesson resources well. They manage pupils’ behaviour highly effectively with clear rules that are consistently enforced.
  • Teachers provide adequate time for practice to embed the pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills securely. They introduce subject content progressively and constantly demand more of pupils. Teachers identify and support any pupil who is falling behind, and enable almost all to catch up.
  • Teachers check pupils’ understanding systematically and effectively in lessons, offering clearly directed and timely support.
  • Teachers provide pupils with incisive feedback, in line with the school’s assessment policy, about what pupils can do to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills. The pupils use this feedback effectively.
  • Teachers set challenging homework, in line with the school’s policy and as appropriate for the age and stage of pupils, that consolidates learning, deepens understanding and prepares pupils very well for work to come.
  • Teachers embed reading, writing and communication and, where appropriate, mathematics exceptionally well across the curriculum, equipping all pupils with the necessary skills to make progress. For younger children in particular, phonics teaching is highly effective in enabling them to tackle unfamiliar words.
  • Teachers are determined that pupils achieve well. They encourage pupils to try hard, recognise their efforts and ensure that pupils take pride in all aspects of their work. Teachers have consistently high expectations of all pupils’ attitudes to learning.
  • Pupils love the challenge of learning and are resilient to failure. They are curious, interested learners who seek out and use new information to develop, consolidate and deepen their knowledge, understanding and skills. They thrive in lessons and also regularly take up opportunities to learn through extra-curricular activities.
  • Pupils are eager to know how to improve their learning. They capitalise on opportunities to use feedback, written or oral, to improve.
  • Parents are provided with clear and timely information on how well their child is progressing and how well their child is doing in relation to the standards expected. Parents are given guidance about how to support their child to improve.
  • Teachers are quick to challenge stereotypes and the use of derogatory language in lessons and around the school. Resources and teaching strategies reflect and value the diversity of pupils’ experiences and provide pupils with a comprehensive understanding of people and communities beyond their immediate experience.

Good (2)

  • Teachers use effective planning to help pupils learn well. Time in lessons is used productively. Pupils focus well on their learning because teachers reinforce expectations for conduct and set clear tasks that challenge pupils.
  • In lessons, teachers develop, consolidate and deepen pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills. They give sufficient time for pupils to review what they are learning and to develop further. Teachers identify and support effectively those pupils who start to fall behind and intervene quickly to help them to improve their learning.
  • Teachers use their secure subject knowledge to plan learning that sustains pupils’ interest and challenges their thinking. They use questioning skilfully to probe pupils’ responses and they reshape tasks and explanations so that pupils better understand new concepts. Teachers tackle misconceptions and build on pupils’ strengths.
  • Teachers give pupils feedback in line with the school’s assessment policy. Pupils use this feedback well and they know what they need to do to improve.
  • Teachers set homework, in line with the school’s policy and as appropriate for the age and stage of pupils, that consolidates learning and prepares pupils well for work to come.
  • Teachers develop pupils’ reading, writing and communication, and where appropriate mathematics, well across the curriculum. For younger children in particular, the teaching of phonics is effective in enabling them to tackle unfamiliar words.
  • Teachers expect and encourage all pupils to work with positive attitudes so that they can apply themselves and make strong progress.
  • Pupils develop the capacity to learn from mistakes and they become keen learners who want to find out more. Most are willing to find out new information to develop, consolidate and deepen their knowledge, understanding and skills, both in lessons and in extra-curricular activities.
  • Most pupils commit to improving their work. They are given time to apply their knowledge and understanding in new ways that stretches their thinking in a wide range of subjects, and to practise key skills.
  • The school gives parents accurate information about how well their child is progressing, how well their child is doing in relation to the standards expected, and what their child needs to do to improve.
  • Teachers challenge stereotypes and the use of derogatory language in lessons and around the school. Teachers promote equality of opportunity and diversity in teaching and learning.

Requires improvement (3)

  • Teaching, learning and assessment are not yet good.

Inadequate (4)

Teaching, learning and assessment are likely to be inadequate if one or more of the following applies.

  • Teaching is poorly planned.
  • Weak assessment practice means that teaching fails to meet pupils’ needs.
  • Pupils or particular groups are making inadequate progress because teaching does not develop their knowledge, understanding and skills sufficiently.
  • Pupils cannot communicate, read, write or apply mathematics as well as they should, so they do not make sufficient progress in their knowledge, understanding and skills because they are unable to access the curriculum.
  • Teachers do not promote equality of opportunity or understanding of diversity effectively and so discriminate against the success of individuals or groups of pupils.

Grade descriptors for personal development, behaviour and welfare (page 52 of Handbook)

Note: Grade descriptors are not a checklist. Inspectors adopt a ‘best fit’ approach that relies on the professional judgement of the inspection team.

Outstanding (1)

  • Pupils are confident, self-assured learners. Their excellent attitudes to learning have a strong, positive impact on their progress. They are proud of their achievements and of their school.
  • Pupils discuss and debate issues in a considered way, showing respect for others’ ideas and points of view.
  • In secondary schools, high quality, impartial careers guidance helps pupils to make informed choices about which courses suit their academic needs and aspirations. They are prepared for the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training.
  • Pupils understand how their education equips them with the behaviours and attitudes necessary for success in their next stage of education, training or employment and for their adult life.
  • Pupils value their education and rarely miss a day at school. No groups of pupils are disadvantaged by low attendance. The attendance of pupils who have previously had exceptionally high rates of absence is rising quickly towards the national average.
  • Pupils’ impeccable conduct reflects the school’s effective strategies to promote high standards of behaviour. Pupils are self-disciplined. Incidences of low-level disruption are extremely rare.
  • For individuals or groups with particular needs, there is sustained improvement in pupils’ behaviour. Where standards of behaviour were already excellent, they have been maintained.
  • Pupils work hard with the school to prevent all forms of bullying, including online bullying and prejudice-based bullying.
  • Staff and pupils deal effectively with the very rare instances of bullying behaviour and/or use of derogatory or aggressive language.
  • The school’s open culture actively promotes all aspects of pupils’ welfare. Pupils are safe and feel safe at all times. They understand how to keep themselves and others safe in different situations and settings. They trust leaders to take rapid and appropriate action to resolve any concerns they have.
  • Pupils can explain accurately and confidently how to keep themselves healthy. They make informed choices about healthy eating, fitness and their emotional and mental well-being. They have an age-appropriate understanding of healthy relationships and are confident in staying safe from abuse and exploitation.
  • Pupils have an excellent understanding of how to stay safe online and of the dangers of inappropriate use of mobile technology and social networking sites.
  • Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development equips them to be thoughtful, caring and active citizens in school and in wider society.

Good (2)

  • Pupils are confident and self-assured. They take pride in their work, their school and their appearance.
  • Pupils’ attitudes to all aspects of their learning are consistently positive. These positive attitudes have a good impact on the progress they make.
  • Pupils show respect for others’ ideas and views.
  • In secondary schools, pupils use impartial careers guidance to make choices about the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training.
  • Pupils are punctual and prepared for lessons. They bring the right equipment and are ready to learn.
  • Pupils value their education. Few are absent or persistently absent. No groups of pupils are disadvantaged by low attendance. The attendance of pupils who have previously had exceptionally high rates of absence is showing marked and sustained improvement.
  • Pupils conduct themselves well throughout the day, including at lunchtimes.
  • The school is an orderly environment. Pupils respond quickly to instructions and requests from staff, allowing lessons to flow smoothly and without interruption. Low-level disruption is rare.
  • Pupils’ good conduct reflects the school’s efforts to promote high standards. There are marked improvements in behaviour for individuals or groups with particular behavioural needs.
  • Parents, staff and pupils have no well-founded concerns about personal development, behaviour and welfare.
  • Teachers and other adults are quick to tackle the rare use of derogatory or aggressive language and always challenge stereotyping.
  • Teachers and other adults promote clear messages about the impact of bullying and prejudiced behaviour on pupils’ well-being. Pupils work well with the school to tackle and prevent the rare occurrences of bullying.
  • The school’s open culture promotes all aspects of pupils’ welfare. Pupils are safe and feel safe. They have opportunities to learn how to keep themselves safe. They enjoy learning about how to stay healthy and about emotional and mental health, safe and positive relationships and how to prevent misuse of technology.
  • Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development ensures that they are prepared to be reflective about and responsible for their actions as good citizens.

Requires improvement (3)

  • Pupils’ personal development and welfare are not yet good and/or behaviour in the school is not yet good.
  • Pupils are safe and they feel safe.

Inadequate (4)

Personal development, behaviour and welfare are likely to be inadequate if any one of the following applies.

  • Pupils’ lack of engagement, persistent low-level and/or high-level wilful, disruption, contribute to reduced learning and/or disorderly classrooms.
  • A significant minority of pupils show a lack of respect for each other or staff and a lack of self-discipline. Pupils ignore or rebut requests from teachers to moderate their conduct. This results in poor behaviour around the school.
  • Pupils show negative attitudes about the value of good manners and behaviour as key factors in school life, adult life and work.
  • Attendance is consistently low for all pupils or groups of pupils and shows little sign of sustained improvement.
  • A significant minority of pupils do not understand how and why to live healthy, positive lives both physically and emotionally.
  • Incidents of bullying or prejudiced and discriminatory behaviour, both direct and indirect, are frequent.
  • Pupils have little confidence in the school’s ability to tackle bullying successfully.
  • Pupils or particular groups of pupils are not safe or do not feel safe at school and/or at alternative placements.

Grade descriptors for outcomes for pupils (page 57 of Handbook)

Note: Grade descriptors are not a checklist. Inspectors adopt a ‘best fit’ approach that relies on the professional judgement of the inspection team.

Outstanding (1)

  • Throughout each year group and across the curriculum, including in English and mathematics, current pupils make substantial and sustained progress, developing excellent knowledge, understanding and skills, considering their different starting points.
  • The progress across the curriculum of disadvantaged pupils, disabled pupils and those with special educational needs currently on roll matches or is improving towards that of other pupils with the same starting points.
  • Pupils are typically able to articulate their knowledge and understanding clearly in an age-appropriate way. They can hold thoughtful conversations about them with each other and adults.
  • Pupils read widely and often across subjects to a high standard, with fluency and comprehension appropriate to their age. Pupils in Year 1 achieve highly in the national phonics check.
  • For pupils generally, and specifically for disadvantaged pupils, disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs, progress is above average across nearly all subject areas.
  • From each different starting point, the proportions of pupils making and exceeding expected progress in English and in mathematics are high compared with national figures. The progress of disadvantaged pupils matches or is improving towards that of other pupils nationally.
  • The attainment of almost all groups of pupils is broadly in line with national averages or, if below these, it is improving rapidly.
  • Pupils are exceptionally well prepared for the next stage of their education, training or employment and have attained relevant qualifications. Compared with the national average for all pupils, higher proportions of pupils and of disadvantaged pupils, progress on to a range of higher and further education establishments, apprenticeships, employment or training. These destinations strongly support their career plans.

Good (2)

  • Across almost all year groups and in a wide range of subjects, including in English and mathematics, current pupils make consistently strong progress, developing secure knowledge, understanding and skills, considering their different starting points.
  • In a wide range of subjects, the progress of disadvantaged pupils, disabled pupils and those with special educational needs currently on roll is close to or is improving towards that of other pupils with the same starting points.
  • Pupils read widely and often, with fluency and comprehension appropriate to their age. A very large majority of pupils in Year 1 achieve the expected standard in
    the national phonics check.
  • Pupils’ progress is above average or improving across most subject areas. Overall progress of disadvantaged pupils, disabled pupils and those with special educational needs is above average or improving.
  • From different starting points, the proportions of pupils making and exceeding expected progress in English and in mathematics are close to or above national figures. The progress of the very large majority of disadvantaged pupils is similar to or improving in relation to other pupils nationally.
  • Where attainment overall is low, it shows consistent improvement.
  • Pupils are well prepared for the next stage of their education, training or employment and have attained relevant qualifications. The proportion of pupils progressing to higher and further education establishments, apprenticeships, employment or training is close to or above average. These pupils do so at a level suitable to meet appropriate career plans.

Requires improvement (3)

  • Outcomes are not yet good.

Inadequate (4)

Outcomes are likely to be inadequate if one or more of the following applies.

  • Progress in any key subject * or key stage indicates that pupils are underachieving considerably. (*NB ‘Key’ subjects in primary schools are English and mathematics. In secondary schools, they are English, mathematics, science and any subjects studied by a high proportion of pupils.)
  • From their different starting points, the proportions of pupils in different year groups making or exceeding expected progress in English or in mathematics are consistently low and show little or no improvement.
  • For disadvantaged pupils, the proportions making or exceeding expected progress from their different starting points in English or in mathematics are consistently well below those of other pupils nationally and show little or no improvement.
  • There are wide gaps in the progress and/or attainment of different groups and these are not improving.
  • The school’s performance regularly falls below the floor standards. ** Any improvement is insufficient, fragile or inconsistent. (**NB Floor standards refer to the expected levels of performance at Key Stages 2 and 4 set by the government.)
  • Pupils’ proficiency in reading, writing or mathematics is not sufficiently strong for them to succeed in the next year or stage of education, or in training or employment.
  • Pupils have not attained the qualifications appropriate for them to progress on to their next stage of education, training or employment.

(In addition, see the Handbook for the grade descriptors for Early Years (page 62) and 16-19 Provision – page 66)

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5 thoughts on “Ofsted Grade Descriptors, Sept 2015. Guest post by Shena Lewington

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