Inspectors to be Inspected – NAHT Launches Independent Audit of Ofsted

Project 365 #64: 050309 Didn't They Do Well...
More than 2,000 school leaders have condemned proposed changes to the inspection regime for working against standards and driving talented teachers out of the profession.

At its annual conference in Harrogate today, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) will officially launch School View – its attempt to capture the real picture of what happens during school inspections. The association hopes that the evidence can be used to persuade Ofsted, the official schools’ inspection body, to address the variable quality of its inspection teams and to concentrate on helping schools improve rather than simply criticising them.

The NAHT has already polled the views of its members on key issues connected to Ofsted’s current regime and has concluded that the interests of pupils may be compromised by the drive towards an even more adversarial inspection culture.

The union claims some inspectors appear to arrive at schools with their minds already made up or with personal agendas. Too many lack experience of the sort of school they are inspecting, rendering these ‘make or break’ judgements far too precarious.

Heads also claim that Ofsted’s recent rhetoric is creating a culture of intimidation which is forcing many heads – even those at schools rated good or outstanding – to consider quitting before their time. Many believe that the devastating effect on staff and pupil morale will work against standards by reducing collaboration and innovation.

In a survey completed by more than 2,000 school leaders1, nearly 90 per cent said they were unhappy with the tone and content of recent Ofsted announcements. A staggering 98 per cent said they believed that Ofsted judgements were subject to political interference, while 45 per cent said Ofsted was either making no contribution towards raising standards or actively preventing schools from doing better. Just two per cent thought Ofsted was helping to improve school performance.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “Schools must be accountable for their work and, where there are problems, leaders need robust external feedback to help them improve.

“But the quality of Ofsted inspections is far too variable, too subjective. Pupils, parents and teachers deserve better than a roll of the dice for the result. Frequent changes of the inspection framework mean that even the inspectors themselves struggle to keep up. There are fair-minded, expert inspectors out there, but we need far more. Ofsted wants a ‘no excuses’ culture – well that applies to them too.

“If we believe in the value of a constructive inspection process, we must hold Ofsted to account for consistent, objective and high quality inspections. NAHT’s School View will provide an independent audit of Ofsted performance by schools which have been inspected. It will go beyond anecdote and rumour to provide hard evidence. Where we find persistent errors, it will help us offer support to schools to seek redress.

“What we fear is a culture that saps the profession of its energy and goodwill. When nearly 40 per cent of experienced head teachers say they feel discouraged by the direction Ofsted is taking and plan to leave the profession early, this is a recruitment crisis waiting to happen.”

Mr Hobby is expected to release proposals for a positive, collaborative approach to raising school standards in his speech to delegates on Sunday.

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