Plan To Speed Up Ofsted Inspections Of Schools In England Sparks Fury

The recent plan of the government to accelerate Ofsted inspections has been met with fury and disbelief from headteachers. Despite calls from the sector to suspend routine inspections due to COVID-19 disruptions, the schools inspectorate was given an extra £24m to ensure all schools and further education providers are inspected in the next four years. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi believes the pandemic is an opportunity to "build back better and fairer", stating that accelerating inspection rates will provide parents with current information and recognition of the hard work of teachers and leaders.

However, teaching unions were united in their criticism of the move to inspect schools and FE providers, with some being stripped of their top ratings of “outstanding” after recent inspections in September. This has caused immense stress and anguish among the school heads affected, and some moderate and respected headteachers believe the inspectorate is not the force for good that it once was.

Ofsted needs to be careful as many believe that it is conducting routine inspections at a time when schools are focusing on helping children catch up after months of disrupted learning, high rates of absence among students and staff, and headteachers suffering from pandemic burnout. Former school inspectors, including Frank Norris, a former senior HMI with Ofsted, have expressed deep reservations over the inspectorate’s apparent lack of attention to crucial areas.

The “humiliating” grading system that measures schools from outstanding to inadequate is also causing concerns and needs to be scrapped as a priority. Caroline Derbyshire, who chairs the Headteachers’ Roundtable, believes that the shaming of school heads is something that the profession should never have put up with in the first place. Opinion on Ofsted has seldom been lower than it is now, and the inspectorate needs to regain the confidence of education experts, professional bodies, and school leaders.


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