Ofsted says it will make inspections more manageable and less bureaucratic and will focus more sharply on standards and teaching than at present.
The new framework will apply to all inspections after Easter 1996.
It has been written following a national consultation exercise earlier this year and some pilot inspections in the summer. It will replace the framework which, with some later revisions, has been in use since the start of the new national inspection system in September 1993.
Despite the significant changes aimed at making inspections less bureaucratic and unwieldy for both schools and inspectors, the rigour of the inspection process has been retained.
Inspectors will continue to be required to report on the four fundamental elements set out in the Education (Schools) Act 1992: the quality of education, educational standards, the efficiency of the school and the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils. But the focus is on what pupils achieve and the quality of teaching.
Judgements about other aspects of the school, such as management systems, will be related to how they contribute to the quality of education.
Introducing the new framework and handbooks, Chief Inspector of Schools, Chris Woodhead, said:
'Two years' experience of using the existing framework and handbook and of listening to the advice of both inspectors and schools indicated that changes were needed.
'The original framework has been a marvellous foundation-stone for the new four-year inspection system while the handbook has been hailed by many heads as the most influential tool for school self-evaluation and improvement for many years.
'But what we have now is better. It is better because it is shorter, sharper and goes to the heart of the matter: the classroom. It is better because it is more manageable for inspectors and less distracting for schools. It is better, above all, because it will tell parents clearly and concisely about their children's achievements and progress, what the school is doing to help or hinder that progress and what needs to be done to improve the school's performance.
'We are enormously grateful for all the advice we received over recent months which has helped us to shape the new framework. I am confident it will lead to better inspections and reports which will be welcomed by everyone with an interest in raising standards in our schools.'