Merseyside Schools Leading the Way with New Child and Learning-focussed Ofsted Guidelines


Parents of school-age children will be well aware of the changes to the Ofsted framework, due for 2019, which has been heavily featured in the press this week.
Amongst other changes to the framework – such as short notice inspections, with just two and a half hours warning – this year, Ofsted has promised to make its inspection reports more accessible to parents because they are its “most important education stakeholders”, according to a senior official.
They are also shifting the focus from exam results to assessing the quality of learning. Previous Ofsted inspections have focussed on outcomes and exam results, which places “too much weight on test and exam results” and lacked emphasis on the curriculum and learning journeys of children.
Amanda Spielman, HM Chief Inspector of Education, has announced that the quality of teaching, learning and assessment judgment (which Ofsted has admitted is too focused on outcomes) will be replaced with an overall quality of education judgment.
This, Ofsted states, will “de-intensify the inspection focus on performance data and place more emphasis on the substance of education and what matters most to learners and practitioners”.
The good news for Merseyside parents is that Liverpool and Wirral schools are leading the way for the new ‘child and learning-focused’ inspection framework, with pioneering, Liverpool based assessment software company, Balance – an in-lesson primary school assessment software to track pupils learning progress – developed and managed by Angel Solutions Ltd.
According to Ofsted, judgements will be made by shifting the focus from results onto “what is being taught and how schools are achieving a good education”.
Eighteen Liverpool and Wirral schools are now signed up to this revolutionary way of teaching, with assessment leads attending ‘Balance Hub’ CPD days each term, gaining access to the latest cutting edge educational research and sharing best practice. The Hubs are led by Tom Wallace, SLE in formative assessment, former deputy head teacher of Outstanding rated Cheshire West school St Bernard’s RC Academy, and the co-founder of Balance.
With Balance, teachers use the clear, progressive and flexible curriculum to know exactly where to focus their teaching. Learning is discussed and reflected upon using a ‘learning wheel’ judgements 1 to 9, or secure. Children are firmly placed at the heart of learning, discussing how they could constantly improve. Valuable assessment information is then gathered and intuitive and simple analysis shows exactly where children are in their learning journey – tracking a depth understanding and self-improvement, not marks.
Teachers can then plan what to do next to make sure all pupils achieve their full potential. The Balance way of assessment is a revolution in learning. Learning wheels give a whole new insight into children’s progress. Teachers are quickly able to show how well children have done in their lessons and easily share this with parents. No nonsense of steps, levels, points or bands; just learning.
Because the curriculum is broken down into simple progressive steps, teachers can focus on exactly how well children have progressed in every area. By capturing the small steps in this way, teachers are truly accountable to the learning of every child, not the data!
Not all children learn in the same way and Balance help teachers reflect on what works best and where children may be struggling, fill gaps of key knowledge and understanding.
And it’s good news for teachers, too. According to Ofsted, when the new changes come in to place, workload should decrease amongst teachers. Currently “schools inevitably feel they must do a ton of recording and collating of information to present during the inspection.” The intention is that “a focus on substance will help to tackle excessive workload.” And will focus on what will “genuinely assess quality of education”, which is fundamental to the philosophy of Balance. Especially with Balance’s verbal feedback tools and strategies, teachers have found they’re saving so much time, allowing them to focus on what matters most.
Schools should feel empowered to “put the child first” and will be rewarded “for doing the right thing by their pupils.” This in contrast to attempting to achieve good results at the cost of personal development and the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum. “Those who are bold and ambitious and run their schools with integrity will be rewarded as a result.”
The change in Ofsted guidelines follows a string of failures, such as the collapse of the Wakefield City Academies Trust, which last year announced it was giving up control of 21 schools, while tens of thousands of pupils remain at schools unable to find a trust willing to govern them.

Adam Vasco, St Vincent De Paul Catholic Primary, Liverpool:
‘The Balance Hubs have become an integral part of school improvement and CPD for SLT and key staff in ensuring that children’s learning is at the heart of what we do. Too often schools partners and networks were based on nothing other than geographical similarities, however, the Balance Hubs ensure that like-minded schools can share their expertise, advice and support each other on our journeys in ensuring that our children have the finest education possible and that we as educators can work smarter, focusing on the areas that matter. The support from the Hubs has helped us to embed Balance in school and we have certainly come a long way in a short amount of time. We believe we are at an exciting point in education, enabling us to focus our attentions where it really matters. Balance encapsulates all this, rooted in sound pedagogical research, the Hubs provide an opportunity for us all to engage with the pioneers and educationalists who are shaping the future of education.’

What other teachers have to say:

“Every day we are constantly having that dialogue where are we how do we feel what do we have to do next all the time in all the lessons as staff”

“The whole culture has changed in school. We have got rid of marking now. We have no green and red pens!”

“We use it in every lesson it has impacted every lesson. The conversations we’re having now are more meaningful with regards to feedback to the children”

“Easy to use, straightforward the children really understand it as well”

“We have managed to reduce the workload but not reduce the quality of the marking and the feedback that we give to the children. When you share the learning wheel with the children. The [children] absolutely love it”

“Children are self-assessing themselves. Shared dialogue about children’s understanding.”