Exclusive: Inspector shortage may prevent Ofsted return

The majority of Ofsted inspectors are school leaders who are busy dealing with Covid-19 demands, warns ASCL
11th November 2020, 4:00pm


Exclusive: Inspector shortage may prevent Ofsted return

Ascl Has Warned That Ofsted Inspectors Who Work In Schools May Not Be Able To Leave Their Schools During Covid Crisis.

A headteachers' leader has warned that a full return of Ofsted next year will be "hugely problematic" because the majority of inspectors who are school leaders could be too busy in their day jobs owing to Covid-19.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that the 70 per cent of Ofsted inspectors who are also school leaders "simply cannot break away" from their schools if they are managing the demands of the Covid-19 crisis.

ASCL has also urged Ofsted not to return to full inspection but to explore providing remote support to struggling schools.

Lockdown: Ofsted moves school visits online

Exclusive: School closes after visit from inspector who then tested positive for Covid

Return: Inspection may change when Ofsted returns 

Talks are ongoing between Ofsted and the Department for Education over the return of routine inspections - currently scheduled for January next year.

Ofsted said last week that the timing of this return and the form of inspections it will carry out are being carefully considered.

Mr Barton said: "One of the reasons that it would be hugely problematic to resume Ofsted inspections in the current circumstances is because school leaders who serve as inspectors may be immersed in the business of managing complex safety protocols, and simply cannot break away from this work in order to carry out inspections.

"If a school is in the middle of managing a Covid case, identifying who needs to be sent home to self-isolate, communicating this to parents, and delivering remote education, that is a pretty demanding and all-consuming situation - and one that can happen quite suddenly at any time.

"Given that around 70 per cent of Ofsted inspectors are serving practitioners, it is easy to see how quickly the inspection system could unravel in this very turbulent environment, and how any timetable of inspections would be at the mercy of events."

His comments follow a call last week from the chair of the Headteachers' Roundtable group, Stephen Tierney, for school leaders to refuse to work as inspectors during the current academic year.

Mr Tierney revived the idea of the group's Pause Ofsted campaign, launched before the Covid-19 crisis, which urged school leaders to stop working for the watchdog as part of a campaign to push for it to be reformed.

Mr Barton also suggested that rather than looking to resume full inspections, Ofsted should look at providing remote support to schools that need it.

He added: "It is quite simply untenable for routine Ofsted inspections to resume in January because of the public health implications of inspectors going in and out of schools, and the huge disruption being caused by rising Covid infection levels.

"However, it is worth exploring the option of the inspectorate providing some form of ongoing support to struggling schools, delivered remotely.

"This would potentially be a positive move by the inspectorate, as long as it is genuinely supportive, and it would give Ofsted something useful to do while circumstances continue to make routine inspections a non-starter.

"Ofsted is, after all, a massive government agency, and if it can be utilised in a productive manner that is something we think could be welcomed."

An Ofsted spokesperson said: "We're carefully considering how we return to inspection. The timing and the form any inspection would take remain under review."

Ofsted has been carrying out visits to schools this term to check on the return of pupils to full-time education following the initial coronavirus lockdown, which closed schools to most pupils in March this year.

These visits are now being carried out remotely during the latest national lockdown, which is scheduled to last for four weeks.

However, chief inspector Amanda Spielman told a conference last week that the inspectorate plans to resume the in-person visits once the lockdown is over.

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters