ATL, NASUWT and NUT respond to plans to change inspections for second time in six months


Teaching unions have today condemned Ofsted proposals to change the inspections of schools for the second time in six months, calling for an end to the “relentless onslaught on teachers”.

Commenting on changes due to be implemented in September, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “The launch of new inspection arrangements by the Chief Inspector of Schools, just months after arrangements changed significantly in January this year, will do nothing to reassure the teaching profession that Ofsted is independent of political control.

“Sir Michael Wilshaw has obviously decided that rather than being developmental and supportive, Ofsted inspections will continue to be punitive and high-stakes for schools, teachers and head teachers.

“This relentless onslaught on dedicated and committed teachers by Ofsted must stop.  School leaders feel entirely ground down by Ofsted. Many teachers and school leaders are now looking to early retirement, or just resigning rather than face further inspections. Giving head teachers notice of inspections the day before, rather than none whatsoever, as earlier threatened by Sir Michael, will do nothing to alter this mood.

“There should be no ‘one size fits all’ deadline for improvement. Head teachers of schools needing additional support should be offered the support and funding needed not issued with threats of special measures or academy conversion.  This is to the benefit of no one, most especially children and young people. Defining schools by criteria which rarely reflect the work that they are doing is simply demoralising for both staff and pupils.

“The new system seems to be designed to engineer more schools being removed from local authorities and the communities they serve and being handed over to various academy sponsors. As with so many new policies and announcements this is more about politics and very little about the best way forward for the education of children and young people, to which the NUT is committed.”

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “The NASUWT, in common with all teachers and parents, wants every school to aspire to be a great school, but the announcement of yet more reform to the inspection framework for schools in England comes just six months after changes initiated by the Secretary of State.

“Parents and the public are entitled to expect an independent inspection system that holds schools properly to account to raise standards, free from government meddling and interference. The Secretary of State should take note.

“The Chief Inspector has listened to concerns about no notice inspection and changes to the inspection grading system which replace ‘satisfactory’ with a ‘requires improvement’ grade.

“Political denigration of the achievements of schools has undermined confidence in the use of the term ‘satisfactory’ as a judgement for a school’s overall performance. It is important that the change of language is not also abused by government ministers and others as a justification for forcing structural reform and privatisation onto schools.

“If the Chief Inspector is serious about wanting to support school improvement and excellence across the system, he will need to ensure that Ofsted is equipped and capable of offering schools practical support between inspections.

“In raising the inspection bar and requiring ‘outstanding’ schools to have ‘outstanding’ teaching, it is vital that schools can have confidence in Ofsted’s ability to make secure and consistent judgements on teaching quality and that all inspectors can demonstrate they have relevant and recent experience of classroom teaching.

“It is deeply regrettable that despite claims to the contrary, Ofsted is also seeking to micro-manage schools by placing a new requirement on schools to provide information on the performance management appraisals of individual teachers. It is not clear that Ofsted has thought through the practical implications or demonstrated how this change of approach will contribute to raising educational standards in schools.

“The unintended consequences of this change could be seriously damaging to the professional morale and confidence of teachers and, if badly implemented, would seriously undermine industrial relations and educational standards across all schools.”

Nansi Ellis, head of education policy at ATL, said: “Ofsted is discredited in the eyes of many teachers and needs to even work harder to regain their trust.  It is all very well for Ofsted to say it is going to focus on helping schools and colleges improve their teaching, but teachers will want to be reassured that every Ofsted inspector has this message and the knowledge and skill to carry it out.

“While giving schools virtually no notice of an inspection may make parents think that inspectors are seeing what really goes on in schools, the reality is that it means teachers, heads and support staff are in a state of constant anxiety, measuring and recording everything in case inspectors turn up, rather than developing creative, innovative and exciting lessons for their pupils.

“Ofsted should not meddle in teachers’ pay, this is outside its remit and it already has more than enough to do inspecting teaching and helping schools and colleges improve.”

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