As 2020 approaches, senior figures from across government reflect on their highlights and challenges of 2019, look ahead to the next 12 months and share their favourite festive memories
What was your highlight of 2019?
Clearly this has to be the successful start of our new Education Inspection Framework. It took more than two years to bring to fruition through policy work, research, stakeholder consultation, piloting, systems development and training and much more. It went live in September not only for schools but also for childminders, nurseries, post-16 colleges and apprenticeship providers. I am touching wood as I write this but feedback from many quarters is telling us that is going as we hoped, delivering inspections that are genuinely about professional dialogue and development as well as judgements. I very much look forward to seeing the full impact of this framework over time – which we have, of course, planned to evaluate carefully.
What was the single biggest change in your organisation this year?
Alongside the new framework, we have introduced electronic evidence-gathering systems for both schools and further education. This has great benefits both for inspections, because managers can review accumulating evidence bases to discuss with inspectors while an inspection is still in progress, without needing to travel to the site. Beyond this, it will turbocharge our flow of reports on aggregated insights from multiple inspections and our wider research work. But otherwise it has been a relatively stable year, providing a strong platform for the new framework, though we did complete the insourcing of our early years workforce, transferring inspectors into our regional management structure.
What will be the biggest challenge of 2020 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
We continue to work hard to make important issues discussable, even the kinds of things that we all naturally shy away from talking about, like sexual abuse of children. Some of our toughest work is in the least visible places: illegal schools, “elective home education” that is really disguised exclusion from school, or unregulated accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds in local authority care.
And an election always brings surprises: new ministers, new policies, and this time around proposals from some parties to reshape what we do. Whatever 2020 brings I am confident we are well prepared for it.
Tell us a favourite festive memory from your youth…
We often rent a house in the country for a week over Christmas and bring family together there. Dealing with the unexpected challenges this can create seems to add to the fun. This year it is a house attached to Hampton Court Palace.