20 November 2023

Inquiry says Ofsted viewed as ‘not fit for purpose’

20 November 2023

Ofsted is in need of major reform and is seen as “not fit for purpose” according to an inquiry into the education inspectorate for England.

The Beyond Ofsted inquiry called for “transformational change” and said it found Ofsted as “having a detrimental impact on schools which some perceive as toxic”.

The inquiry, chaired by former schools minister Lord Jim Knight and sponsored by the National Education Union (NEU), recommends the school inspection system should be overhauled.

Lord Knight said: “The evidence is clear. Ofsted has lost the trust of the teaching profession, and increasingly of parents.

“Our recommendations are designed to restore trust and address the intensification of leader and teacher workload, while reforming a system which is ineffective in its role of school improvement”

The inquiry recommends that schools could “self-evaluate their progress” and work with an external School Improvement Partner who would work long term with the school.

They would validate and support the school to deliver an action plan and parents would be provided with “readable and useful information” instead of a single-word judgment.

Lord Knight added: “This would produce an action plan for governance and the school community to understand what is working well and what can be done better.”

The Beyond Ofsted inquiry was launched in April amid calls for the inspectorate to revamp its school ratings system – which uses one-word judgments – following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry in January.

Ms Perry’s family said she took her own life after an Ofsted report downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

The inquiry recommends an “immediate pause to routine inspections” to allow time for trust to be regained by the teaching profession, but Ofsted inspections would continue to give feedback to the Department of Education on the impact of government policies.

An Ofsted spokesperson said they want “inspections to be a constructive experience for school staff”.

“Children only get one chance at education, and inspection helps make sure that education standards are high for all children. The current inspection system was developed after extensive consultation with the education sector and parents.

“After every inspection we ask schools whether they believe the inspection will help them improve. Nine out of 10 say it will.

“Our inspectors are all former or current school leaders and well understand the nature and pressures of the work.

“Ofsted has a crucial role in providing a regular, independent evaluation of every school, providing reassurance to parents that pupils are receiving the high quality education they deserve and are being kept safe.”

It comes as the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said “overly simplistic” school inspection judgments, such as inadequate or needs improvement, often trigger abrupt changes to management.

The think tank said this fuelled a “football manager culture” in schools.

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