Annal Nayyar reports on todays announcement – Ofsted sets out wholesale reform to school inspections regime

Schools watchdog Ofsted has today set out plans for a radical overhaul in the way it judges standards in England in changes that will see good schools given less thorough examinations.

Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said today that the reforms, which are published for consultation, would mean more frequent but less onerous inspectors for schools considered to be performing well.

Instead, resources would be concentrated on institutions most in need of Ofsted’s attention a bid to accelerate improvements across the country.

Wilshaw said more than two-thirds of good schools and colleges had improved and maintained their performance ‘and so there is a strong case for more proportionate inspections which focus on a professional dialogue between head teachers and inspectors’.

‘The time has come, therefore, to introduce frequent but shorter inspections for good schools and further education and skills providers.

‘These inspections will be different to what has gone before. They will have a much clearer focus on ensuring that good standards have been maintained.’

Schools and further education institutions that can show they were doing well would no longer require a full inspection unless significant concerns about performance were unexpectedly found.
Shorter inspections would though take place more frequently than full inspections do currently, which can leave some schools uninspected for periods as long as five years.

Under the new plans, two inspectors would normally be on site for a day every three years.

This will free resources to allow Ofsted to focus on schools which are not not improving or where standards have fallen.

‘In the past academic year alone 860 schools we inspected, attended by 335,000 children, declined in performance,’ Wilshaw added.
He also announced that Ofsted would not be consulting on the reintroduction of routine no-notice inspections.

‘I have already broadened the criteria Ofsted uses to judge whether an unannounced inspection is required for particular schools,’ he said.

‘After careful consideration, I have therefore concluded that we do not need to consult on moving to routine no-notice inspections at the present time.’

Responding to the announcement, Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers said Ofsted’s current approach to inspection was deterring teachers from taking posts at disadvantaged schools.

‘If the proposals for shorter, sharper inspections for ‘good’ schools means there will be a greater emphasis on examining data, then this would be yet another backward step,’ she said.

‘The education schools provide cannot be reduced to its headline examination results in a few core subjects. While we welcome the fact that there will be no routine no notice inspections what we need is a root and branch reform of the role of Ofsted.

‘The current system is resulting in many heads and teachers unwilling to take on jobs in disadvantaged schools – afraid for their jobs as a result of poor inspections, afraid to take risks and be experimental.’

Ofsted also proposed to end the outsourcing of inspections from September 2015, after which inspectors will be contracted directly to Ofsted, with inspectors leading the great majority of inspections.

From next September, Ofsted has also proposed to adopt a common inspection framework to standardise the approach to inspections but adapted to suit nurseries, schools and colleges, including those independent schools it inspects.

Establishments will be judged on their leadership and management, teaching, learning and assessment, personal development, behaviour and welfare and on outcomes for children and learners.

 

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