The chief inspector, Christine Gilbert, has announced a consultation on a more proportionate new approach to school inspections, with more resources targeted on the weakest schools and less frequent inspections for good and outstanding schools. There will also be more time spent observing lessons - the reduction in classroom observation went too far with earlier reeforms. And there should be less reliance on contextualised value added alone in making judgements. Taken with experiments over no notice inspections and more opportunities for parents to trigger inspections, this is a good package of reform which should focus attention where it is needed most.
At her press conference, she also signalled a belief that standards have 'stalled' in recent years in both primary and secondary schools. Although there have been modest improvements in primaries - and stronger improvements in secondaries, especially academies - there is no doubt that a reduction in pressure on schools to achieve in the early part of this century led many primaries in particular to de-emphasise English and Maths. That pressure has now started to be restored - and, so long as ministers aren't distracted by dotty proposals to abolish testing or targets - there is a good chance of serious improvement in the years ahead, not least with stronger phonics and maths teaching. And the new inspection regime should help in that goal.