Angry heads turn tables on Ofsted’s inspectors

Written by: HTU | Published:

School View unveiled as Gove hints at axing no-notice plans

Headteachers have launched a campaign to highlight the “variable quality” of Ofsted inspection teams.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has called the campaign School View – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Ofsted Parent View website which was set up to allow people to register their anonymous views of their local schools.

School View is aiming to provide an independent audit of Ofsted inspectors by schools which have been inspected. It is all part of an attempt to show the “real picture” of what happens during school inspections.

At the union’s annual conference in Harrogate this week, school leaders blamed Ofsted’s “negative rhetoric” for creating a “culture of fear in schools”.

A motion backed by almost 99 per cent of the delegates stated: “This conference is both saddened and angered by the approach taken by the current chief inspector. We need both challenge and support.”

It backed the union to “pursue whatever action it deems appropriate to defend our profession”.

Meanwhile, an NAHT poll of more than 2,000 school leaders condemned the planned changes to the inspection regime for “working against standards and driving talented teachers out of the profession”.

Nearly 90 per cent of those asked said they are unhappy with the tone and content of recent Ofsted announcements, while 98 per cent said that they believe the inspectorate’s judgements are subject to political interference.

The anger has come after a number of announcements from chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw since he took up post in January. These include plans for no-notice inspections, the replacement of the “satisfactory” rating with a new category called “requires improvement” – which will lead to special measures if schools fail to improve. The plans will also mean that schools cannot be judged “outstanding” unless their teaching is rated as such.

The changes are planned for September and come just months after the last revisions to the inspection framework in January. A consultation on the latest proposals closed last week.

In his conference address, NAHT president Steve Iredale said: “Once again it feels like change for change’s sake as the latest chief inspector seeks to make his mark using a high-handed, confrontational approach to which we take great exception.“We want all schools to be outstanding, led by outstanding leaders with outstanding learning and teaching being a central theme in every school. Ofsted’s constant negativity and goalpost-moving does little to help us achieve this.”

Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said that School View would go “beyond anecdote” and will catalogue “persistent errors” which the union will then tackle.Mr Hobby said: “The quality of Ofsted inspections is far too variable, too subjective. 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.

“School View 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.”A number of motions relating to Ofsted were passed during the NAHT conference, including one challenging the government to ensure that the Parent View website is “not open to frivolous or vexatious misuse”.

Another called for an additional category of “improving” within the Ofsted framework, while a third demanded the withdrawal of plans for no-notice inspections.

On this last issue, the union received some good news when education minister Michael Gove hinted that no-notice inspections might not go ahead after all. During a speech to the NAHT members, Mr Gove acknowledged the opposition to the idea. He said: “People fear that no-notice inspections sends a message that we don’t trust the profession. That was never the intention.

“That is why when we come back after the consultation it will be clear that we have listened to the principle that teachers and heads deserve to have the chance to know when an inspection is coming and to be there in order to present the best face of the school. That message has been heard. Action will follow.

“In due course the chief inspector will explain how we change how notice is given so we combine efficiency of the inspection regime with fairness to schools.”

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Ofsted has been listening to the views of headteachers, teachers and parents about its proposed changes to school inspections and will announce the results of its consultation at the end of this month.”

Any headteacher is invited to contribute to School View.

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