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Why I hate Ofsted’s new EIF

The new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) has only been in existence since September...and already I’m sick of it, says The Primary Head...

  • Why I hate Ofsted’s new EIF

If I hear the phrase ‘deep dive’ one more time I may actually spontaneously self-combust.

I mean, seriously, who came up with that? And what will they come up with next? A ‘long, hard look’ perhaps, or a ‘serious browse’ or maybe even a ‘meaty delve’?

You may snigger but don’t be surprised when, come the next update of the inspection handbook, you are invited to a staff meeting because it’s suddenly become very important to conduct a ‘firm grope’ of your music curriculum.

What I loathe most about this new EIF (an acronym that is desperately trying to sound like it belongs in a mission impossible film) is the impact it had immediately on the education landscape.

As soon as it was published, educators were scrutinising it, looking for clues.

Not, sadly, for the sort of clues that might reveal how Ofsted were going to continue ‘raising standards and improving lives’ but instead, for the clues that gave schools an idea of what Ofsted were really looking for.

Two clues were found: the three ‘i’s and the deep dive.

The three ‘i’s were very important.

From now on, Ofsted were going to want to know what the ‘intent’ was behind your curriculum.

This is revolutionary! For years, schools have been faffing around teaching children about the Romans or habitats or any African village teachers can find resources for on Twinkl with no deliberate intent whatsoever.

Learning has happened but it has, and let’s be clear about this, been to the total surprise of the teacher. Well, not any more. Ofsted now expect schools to think ahead and actually have a coherent reason for teaching what they teach. You have been warned.

The second ‘i’ stands for implementation.

This basically means ‘teaching’ but the problem with the word ‘teaching’ is that it doesn’t start with the letter ‘i’.

So, from now on, we don’t teach the curriculum – we implement it.

In terms of making a difference to children’s lives, this is massive.

Children are soon going to be enjoying a fully implemented curriculum as opposed to the one that was just carefully planned, resourced and taught.

Well, they will get to enjoy it, once all the school leaders have rewritten their ‘action plans’ and changed them to ‘implementation documents’.

Finally, the third ‘i’ stands for impact. I find this element of the EIF particularly irritating.

I have been using the word impact for years, mainly because I can never remember if it should be ‘effect’ of ‘affect’.

But now, it looks as though I’m using it just to align by school development plan with the new inspection framework – which of course I am also doing, but that’s not the point.

And then, of course, we come to Ofsted’s coup de grace: the deep dive. A shameful attempt to breathe new life into the concept of ‘finding stuff out’.

Like an Octogenarian who has suffered one too many face-lifts, the deep dive is a concept that we almost recognise without being completely certain at what we’re looking at.

Presumably, it still means that any inspector will still, upon visiting a school, chat to leaders, observe teachers, scrutinise books and talk to pupils.

Only perhaps they’ll be wearing a snorkel and will have to sit in a decompression chamber for 20 minutes before feeding back to your chair of governors. 

Early anecdotal reports from school leaders and teachers would indicate that inspections are being carried out fairly. So why am I so negative about the new education inspection framework?

Well, I am annoyed because I am in the middle of my Ofsted inspection window and therefore will have to spend the next two years fighting off the educational equivalent of project fear.

All those calls and emails from ad men and marketing women trying to convince me that only they know how to help me implement my curriculum.

All those requests from subject leaders who are trying to hijack staff meetings in the belief that if they call a work scrutiny a ‘deep dive’ they’ll somehow be Ofsted ready.

All those conversations with other heads who ask me if I’ve done a deep dive in DT yet because that was what got the school down the road who was Ofsteded last week.

All those meetings with the LA or governors who are desperate to know what the school’s intent is, as if we didn’t know what we doing before 1 September 2019.

Ofsted may not have meant to increase workload stress and anxiety with their new framework but by skilfully using three words beginning with ‘i’ and a naff bit of management speak jargon they’ve done just that. Thanks.


The Primary Head is the headteacher of a UK primary school. Find them at theprimaryhead.com and follow them on Twitter at @theprimaryhead.

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