NUT repeats call for schools inspection body to be abolished

ofsted-logo-blueTeaching unions have given a tepid response to changes to Ofsted announced yesterday by chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.

The changes, which will be implemented in September, include censuring teachers who give worksheets – rather than books – to pupils, toughening up the complaints procedure by setting up regional scrutiny committees and introducing shorter, more frequent inspections of schools or colleges rated as good.

ATL assistant general secretary Nansi Ellis said: “Of course schools must be accountable for the education they provide children and young people, but, for too long, Ofsted inspections have made schools jump through hoops rather than doing what’s best for pupils.

“We are pleased Ofsted has listened to the accurate criticisms about its inspections and is moving towards the more effective  system proposed by ATL.

“But, we are deeply worried that the government might use Ofsted judgements to identify “coasting” schools so that they can be turned into academies.  This would make it difficult for schools to have truly honest conversations about their own strengths and weaknesses.

“While it is good that there will be more ‘serving practitioners’ in inspection teams who are trained by HMI, we believe they should include teachers, not just school leaders.  Ofsted will have its work cut out to train those teams in time to implement a new framework from September.  And we are still concerned that Ofsted will not make sure that people with the right expertise are inspecting the right schools.

“We also question what information inspectors will use to check ‘leaders have identified key areas of concern’ when they are only in school for a day?  Who decides what the key areas of concern are?  We fear that not having all the pupils entered for the Ebacc or having too few children making ‘good progress’ from their baseline may become Ofsted’s areas of concern due to political interference.

”Ofsted must also be held accountable for the impact of its inspections on teachers, leaders and pupils. So we welcome new, more transparent complaints procedures that should enable schools to have more trust in the accuracy and reliability of the inspectors who turns up on the doorstep.”

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “We welcome Ofsted’s acknowledgement that there have been inconsistencies in Ofsted inspections. The changes indicate that Ofsted accepts it has failed to guarantee the quality or consistency of its inspection teams.

“Teachers will find it risible that the Chief Inspector pledges that schools rated good or outstanding will have ‘nothing to fear’ from his inspectors. This is no assurance to the many schools now targeted by Nicky Morgan for ‘coasting’ or ‘failing’, who can expect business as usual from Ofsted. Sir Michael has overseen a climate of fear in his three and a half years as Chief Inspector.

“The introduction of the designation ‘exceptional leaders’ points towards the creation of what amounts to a new category of judgement, one that can be used as a stick to beat school leaders whom Ofsted has not blessed with this accolade.

“Indeed, it is noticeable that Wilshaw’s flattery of those heads in charge of ‘outstanding’ schools does not extend to teachers or governors at those same schools. This fundamentally misunderstands how a school operates and thrives. In addition, it is absurd of the Chief Inspector to call for more ‘mavericks’ in leadership roles, when there is a recruitment crisis, and an accountability system which actively discourages head teachers from being innovative or willing to take risks.

“Unfortunately, many schools will still find Ofsted an unsympathetic menace and today’s announcement will come as little comfort to those that were subject to inspections in which the quality of inspection teams was questionable. Those schools are still living with the consequences of Ofsted misjudgements.

“Ofsted, as with the Department for Education, has a startling inability to recognise that they are part of the problem. Quite simply, Ofsted should be abolished and replaced by a new model of school accountability which is independent and perceived to be so and which has been developed in conjunction with the teaching profession.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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