Education Select Committee, there are questions we want answered

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15 September 2015 by ATL
Last week ATL submitted evidence to the Education Select Committee on the work of Ofsted, based on members' views and experiences - including their pledges to our vision for inspection.

We welcomed the government’s recognition that there are concerns about Ofsted, as we’ve known for some time that it’s a key driver of increased workload for our members.

ATL has consistently argued that fundamental change is needed to Ofsted, and our views have commanded widespread consensus from a range of commentators and education professionals. We have gone further, with very clear proposals for a new, peer-led, supportive and rigorous system - A vision for inspection.

Ofsted should have been, from the start, a supportive organisation. Obviously all schools and colleges (centres) need to move on and raise standards, but the devastation and poor morale left by the current Ofsted regime, and its focus on ticking very narrow standards lists, has not been effective or helpful.

In our submission we reiterated that data on achievement and progress is relied upon too heavily to make a really good judgement of the quality of education provided, and this is likely to increase with the new short inspections.

Until recently, Ofsted inspectors were not properly trained or experienced in the phase or subject that they were inspecting, leading to a perceived ‘lottery’ in terms of the team which inspected. Ofsted has now begun to increase the number of current practitioners performing inspections. This obviously makes sense and will provide more credibility, however the increase in the workload of current practitioners who become inspectors must be addressed.

The impact of inspection on young people’s learning is worrying. Currently, inspection places personal development second to academic attainment and the only performance indicator for the centre that really counts is progress. Inspection should focus on ensuring inclusion for all, including a balanced curriculum and educational opportunities. Ofsted should be looking at the standard of teaching which is being provided and the improvements (or lack of) that this is making to student's lives - not just their grades.

We have spoken many times about the impact of inspection on the profession. Ofsted has too often not contributed to centre improvement and in many instances has made matters worse by driving excellent teachers out of the profession through relentless pressure. The inspection regime has led to centres, in some cases, developing a bullying culture, destroying work life balance, adversely affecting health and completely undermining the good will of the teaching profession.

The questions we would like the Select Committee to address are:

  • How will Ofsted work with the profession to develop a more consultative and supportive approach to school improvement;
  • Why does Ofsted insist on an overall inspection grade, and will it consider changing this?
  • How can Ofsted ensure that local knowledge of a centre feeds into its inspection processes, and that data will be used to raise questions rather than make pre-inspection judgements?
  • How will the Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) and Ofsted complement and not duplicate each other’s work?

By Jill Stokoe, Education Policy Adviser at ATL.

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