‘Basic errors’: 6 complaints about Ofsted inspections

A major new report sets out the concerns of school leaders after the first term of Ofsted’s new inspection regime
14th February 2020, 5:08pm


‘Basic errors’: 6 complaints about Ofsted inspections

Six Complaints From School Leaders About The New Ofsted Inspections

The NAHT has produced a new report outlining its members’ experiences of the first four months of Ofsted’s new curriculum-focused inspections.

The school leaders’ union is now set to launch a year-long survey to gauge members views about how the inspection framework is working throughout the next 12 months.

Schools’ experience:  ‘Exclude and you’re not “outstanding”, inspectors told heads’

Exclusive: ‘Brutal’ new inspections ‘leaving teachers shattered’

Exclusive: NAHT calls for Ofsted inspections to be reformed

Deep dives: How will Ofsted inspect the curriculum

Here are six problems that school leaders say they faced last term during inspections, outlined in today’s report.

1. ‘Huge workload pressures’

The NAHT warns that the new curriculum focus from Ofsted is placing extra workload on schools and subject leaders.

The school leaders union’s report says members think Ofsted’s approach to the sequencing and retention of knowledge does not reflect current practice in schools.

“Instead of inspecting and evaluating the work of schools, the inspectorate is driving compliance by requiring schools to accept the approach set out in its framework. NAHT believes this approach exceeds Ofsted’s remit,” it says.

“School leaders report this is driving huge workload pressures, as schools feel compelled to generate new curriculum plans that map the sequencing of knowledge in order to evidence so-called curriculum ‘intent, implementation and impact’.”

2. ‘Worrying inconsistency’ and judgements based on limited evidence

“Worrying inconsistency exists, too,” the NAHT report says. “For example, a number of leaders have reported inspectors’ refusal to allow them to sit in with, and contribute to, interviews with subject coordinators, particularly in primary schools.

“Some inspectors have refused to consider statutory data; while others have argued that a single, fixed-term exclusion precludes a judgement of ‘outstanding’.

The NAHT report also says that “so-called deep dives” are producing judgements based on very limited evidence.

“A common complaint is that judgements are snapshot impressions based on a single part-lesson observation, a high-stakes discussion with a classroom teacher who coordinates a subject, a cursory review of pupils’ books and a handful of questions put to a very small and unrepresentative number of pupils.”

3. ‘Basic errors and misunderstandings’ 

The new inspections place a new emphasis on the inspection of individual subjects through deep dives as part of Ofsted ‘s assessment of the curriculum.

However, the NAHT warns that school leaders are reporting issues relating to a lack of subject and phase expertise among some inspectors.

“School leaders report basic errors and misunderstandings arising from inspectors’ lack of phase or subject experience,” the report says.

“And in special schools particularly, leaders report lack of understanding of special and specialist provision. Much of the confusion appears to be driven by the one-size-fits-all nature of the methodology for assessing a school’s curriculum.”

4. Heads feel unable to complain

 School leaders say: “The lack of an effective and independent complaints policy probably means that much inconsistency, poor conduct or poor practice remains unaddressed.

“Due to the nature of high-stakes inspection, school leaders struggle to gauge whether to address conduct and consistency issues during an inspection, yet know that complaints made after final feedback are rarely effective.”

It also says many school leaders worry about the effect that a complaint might have on the inspection outcome.

5. Reports ‘brief and overly simplistic’

School leaders are said to be disappointed by the new reporting style adopted by Ofsted since September.

The NAHT report describes the new reports as  “brief and overly simplistic”.

 “They provide little insight and contain flowery, unevidenced statements,” it says. “Their broad-brush nature delivers vague recommendations, with limited reference to leadership. School leaders questioned their utility for schools or parents.”

6. Inspections still going on at 9pm

The NAHT document says: “There are have been reports of inspection activity continuing beyond 6pm and as late as 8pm or even 9pm. School leaders also report the final feedback can take place long after 6pm.” 

The union has warned that the inspection framework is attempting to get too much done in the time available.


An Ofsted spokesperson said: “This framework was the most widely consulted on in Ofsted’s history, and anchored in solid research.

“So far we’ve carried out over 1,200 full inspections and section 8 inspections of ‘good’ and non-exempt schools. The feedback we receive continues to be very positive.

“In post-inspection surveys, nearly nine out of 10 respondents said they were satisfied with the way their inspection was carried out.

“That said, we recognise that those feeding back to the NAHT have identified areas for improved implementation.

“These mostly mirror the concerns raised by some to us directly - for example, the logistics of implementation in small schools, how headteachers and other senior leaders might support subject leads, and the extent to which inspectors can cover the expectations of the framework in the time available on site.

“We welcome this feedback from the NAHT and our continuing dialogue about the implementation of the new framework. We look forward to continuing to work with the NAHT in the coming months.”


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