Ofsted inspections from January a 'daft and dozy' plan

School leaders should refuse to work as inspectors if Ofsted pushes ahead with full inspections plan, says heads' group
4th November 2020, 8:25pm


Ofsted inspections from January a 'daft and dozy' plan

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Headteachers should refuse to work as Ofsted inspectors if the watchdog is "daft and dozy" enough to think it can return to full inspections this academic year, the head of a school leaders' think tank has said.

Ofsted's routine inspections were suspended in March and are currently scheduled to return in January 2021, although this date is being kept under review and the inspectorate has said it is working closely with the Department for Education on the issue.

Tonight, Stephen Tierney, the chair of the Headteachers' Roundtable, raised the prospect of returning to the group's Pause Ofsted campaign if full inspections were to return as planned.

The campaign, launched earlier this year before the Covid crisis, involved school leaders who worked for Ofsted being encouraged not to carry out inspection work on its behalf in an attempt to force reform of the inspectorate.

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Mr Tierney also urged Ofsted not to attempt to inspect remote learning and suggested that school inspection reports should be "retired" after two years.

The NAHT school leaders' union held a panel discussion tonight on what the role of Ofsted should be during the Covid-19 pandemic and afterwards.

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Mr Tierney, who was among the panellists, said: "The vast majority of inspectors are school leaders and you know what I am going to say: pause Ofsted.

"If they were daft enough and dozy enough to think that they could get inspections going again any time this academic year, every single leader who has previously inspected for Ofsted should just make themselves unavailable and say, 'This is not the right time - schools have so much on, school leaders are under so much pressure and have such massive demands that they need their whole team focused on the safeguarding and the learning and the emotional and physical wellbeing of children and not be distracted with anything else.'   

"I think most people feel like they have done two academic years since September, and we are only in November."

He added: "It is easier to say what Ofsted shouldn't be doing rather than what they should do, and the first thing is: don't go into schools and if you do need to speak to them, do it remotely."  

Mr Tierney described it as "ridiculous" that a school has had to close after a visit from an Ofsted inspector who then tested positive for Covid.

And he added: "The other one is: please do not inspect remote learning.  I think the inspectorate is unprepared for it. I think it lacks the capability to do it properly."  

He said Ofsted could look at data about the lack of access to online learning in different areas and demographics, but added: "I just can't see Ofsted putting the boot into the DfE and saying, 'It's an absolute shambles in terms of getting remote access for pupils and particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.'"

Mr Tierney described the 80 per cent reduction in IT device allocations to schools from the department as "criminal".

On a positive note, he said he had heard of HM inspectors "doing great work on secondment", supporting local authorities and in social care settings, and he said this should continue throughout the rest of academic year.

In February this year, before the Covid crisis hit, the Headteachers' Roundtable group requested that all school-based employees resign as Ofsted additional inspectors and called on unions and other professional associations to recommend this "quiet revolution" to their members to help to secure major reform of Ofsted

Baroness Morris of Yardley, a former education secretary, who was also on the panel tonight, said: "My big worry about Ofsted is whether it has got the ability to change to be a different animal that would come into the schools, and I think not."

She said the system did need to be able to discover how schools were coping and share best practice but she said she did not think Ofsted was the organisation to do this.

On the question of Ofsted returning to routine inspections, she added: "Of course, we can't go back to inspecting against the framework in January. I think that would be a nonsense, so I think the government should say for the rest of this year that is not happening."

Ofsted and the Department for Education have been contacted for comment.

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