School inspections should be replaced with a ‘self-evaluation’ system, the Beyond Ofsted inquiry says
Ofsted ‘lost the trust of teachers’ and is holding schools back, a scathing report has found.
The Beyond Ofsted inquiry, launched after the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry in January, said the school inspections system is widely seen as ‘not fit for purpose’ and ‘toxic’.
Complaints of ‘biased, antagonistic and inconsistent’ inspectors dominated evidence given by teachers and parents to the inquiry.
Former schools minister Lord Jim Knight, who chaired the inquiry, backed calls to scrap ‘erratic’ one-word ratings such as ‘good’ or ‘inadequate’ – but warned a top-to-bottom overhaul of the system is needed.
Instead of routine inspections, each school should ‘self-evaluate their progress’ with input from an external reviewer who has a ‘long-term relationship’ with staff, he said.
‘The evidence is clear. Ofsted has lost the trust of the teaching profession, and increasingly of parents,’ Lord Knight added.
‘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 death of Cavershim Primary headteacher Ruth Perry ignited tensions between Ofsted and teachers (Picture: Unpixs)
Among the report’s hard-hitting findings are that Ofsted ‘can be detrimental to school improvement’, particularly in more deprived areas.
Research has described a ‘vicious cycle’ in which schools which receive low Ofsted ratings perform even worse because teachers leave and families from more affluent backgrounds choose other schools.
A study last year found 68% of schools in the most affluent areas have always been rated ‘Good’ or higher since 2005, while the same was true for only 15% of schools in the most deprived areas.
Lord Knight blamed underfunding of Ofsted for the quality of its inspections becoming ‘diminished’ and ‘inconsistent’.
The National Educators’ Union was among several bodies leading calls for reform (Picture: PA)
He continued: ‘The profession works in fear of these erratic judgements.
‘With their careers on the line, head teacher behaviour can be distorted away from what might be best for the children in their school.’
The death of Ruth Perry prompted an outpouring of anger among teachers over the pressure of inspections.
Her school, Cavendish Primary in Berkshire, had been downgraded from ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Inadequate’ due to safeguarding concerns.
Lord Knight’s report also recommended uncoupling safeguarding inspections from academic performance reviews.
He called for a separate body to carry out ‘safeguarding audits’ at schools every year.
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