Heads despair at more 'dawn raids' by Ofsted

Written by: HTU | Published:

Ofsted rolls-out new no-notice behaviour inspections this week. The inspectorate will use Parent View complaints to target schools and those deemed to be struggling face having their full inspections brought forward. Pete Henshaw reports

Ofsted has this week begun a rolling programme of no-notice behaviour inspections.

The unannounced one-day inspections are to take place in schools where parents have voiced fears about the standards of behaviour or where previous inspections show behaviour is giving “cause for concern”.

Schools found to have continuing problems with behaviour face having their full Ofsted inspection brought forward.

However, school leaders this week said the last thing they needed was more “dawn raids”, especially when so many current inspections contain “basic mistakes”.

They also emphasised that behaviour was found to be good or better in 92 per cent of schools at their last inspection and that Ofsted only received 30 complaints from parents last year that qualified for further investigation.

Ofsted made its announcement in a statement issued on Friday afternoon (January 31), ahead of the visits beginning this week.

The statement said: “Schools are being selected for the one-day unannounced visits on the basis of parental concerns as well as evidence gathered from previous inspections.

“During the visits, inspectors will look at a wide range of evidence to reach a judgement on the standards of behaviour in the school. This will include assessing the culture of the school and how pupils interact with each other and with staff.”

Ofsted said that during the visits, inspectors will observe pupils’ behaviour in the classroom, between lessons, during breaks, at lunchtime and after-school.

They will also speak to teachers and pupils to investigate how incidents of poor behaviour are addressed by the school.

Ofsted intends to gather information about parental concerns around behaviour via its Parent View website, which was set-up in 2012 to allow parents and carers to give their views about their child’s school.

The statement added: “If Ofsted finds that a school is effectively tackling poor behaviour, this will be made clear in the inspection findings. Where there is evidence that behaviour remains a problem, this may result in a full inspection being brought forward.”

The inspection reports will be published on the Ofsted website and made available to parents. 

Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said the move is intended to tackle “a culture of casual acceptance” of low-level disruption and poor attitudes to learning.

It comes after Ofsted’s annual report in December said that 700,000 pupils are attending schools where inspectors judged that behaviour needed to improve.

Sir Michael said that while behaviour was a main concern for parents, the issue was “much further down the priority list” for schools. 

He added: “Headteachers and leadership teams determine the culture of the school and they must ensure that high standards of behaviour are maintained both in and outside the classroom.

“Good headteachers understand that positive behaviour underpins effective teaching and learning. They make themselves visible and make sure lessons aren’t undermined by a disrespectful attitude towards staff or authority.

“Ofsted is determined to ensure that those who are failing to get a grip on poor behaviour take action to create the right conditions for children to learn.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, warned that Ofsted was in danger of over-reaching.

He said: “Exactly what we need in the current climate of fear and uncertainty surrounding Ofsted: more dawn raids and surprise visits.

“Ofsted is unable to maintain the quality and consistency of its current, planned inspections. The last thing it should do is over-reach still further when so many inspections contain basic mistakes.

“The fact of the matter is that behaviour was found to be good or better in 92 per cent of schools at their last inspection. Furthermore, of the many hundreds of thousands of parents with children in maintained schools, last year Ofsted received only 30 complaints that qualified for further investigation. Is this a real concern or a distraction?”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the announcement “raises more questions than it answers”.

She said: “What criteria will be used to determine which schools will be inspected? Schools will want to know what the threshold will be at which levels of concern from parents or inspectors are sufficient to trigger a behaviour inspection and the implications of Ofsted’s inspections.”

She also called on Ofsted to investigate the impact of cuts to programmes such as behaviour and attendance partnerships.

She added: “(Ofsted) needs to investigate the impact of the removal of these programmes and must insist that the coalition government provides the support schools need.”

Elsewhere, the Department for Education is publishing new guidance on behaviour this week, which will list “tough but proportionate” punishments such as weeding school grounds and writing lines. 

They will stress that punishment for indiscipline is just as important as rewards for good behaviour.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday (February 2), Mr Gove said that teachers should not be afraid to “get tough” and use the punishments suggested.

However, unions said that many of the approaches are already being used and that the guidelines will offer nothing new.

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