National schools regulator Ofsted is ready to begin using a new electronic evidence gathering (EEG) tool this month, with plans to use it for all inspections by the end of the 2018-19 academic year.
The EEG, which has been developed with Ofsted’s delivery partner Rainmaker, enables school inspectors to capture evidence on a laptop or tablet rather than handwritten forms then submit it directly to the organisation’s cloud based collection system.
A blogpost by its national director, education Sean Hasford, says the tool can recognise their handwriting and convert it into printed text on-screen, and includes voice recognition software.
“EEG is very much part of our strategy to be a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation,” Harford says in the blog.
“It will streamline the way inspectors gather and share evidence. And it will make collation of evidence across themes and areas of practice significantly easier for Ofsted, which will be of huge benefit to our research programme.”
He says the EEG has been used in a series of pilots including inspections of primary, secondary, special and independent schools, and on visits to local authority children’s services. It has received positive feedback, the main lesson being that it feels less obtrusive than handwritten evidence forms and is helping to build confidence in the inspection process.
A Rainmaker spokesperson said the tool has been built on Microsoft Office 365 and related products including the Flow automation platform and SharePoint.
The launch could provide some relief for Ofsted in the face of criticism of its performance. Last week Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee published a report saying that inspectors often fail to spend enough time in a school to make meaningful assessments and that parents do not get enough opportunity to contribute.
Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of schools, rejected the criticisms saying the organisation did not recognise the picture painted by the report.
Image from iStock Mihai Simonia