'Unacceptable' to go back in classrooms, Ofsted warned

Watchdog declines to confirm whether its January inspections will include classroom visits
7th December 2020, 4:55pm
John Roberts

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'Unacceptable' to go back in classrooms, Ofsted warned

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/unacceptable-go-back-classrooms-ofsted-warned
The National Education Union's Joint General Secretary Mary Bousted Has Said That It Would Be 'totally Unacceptable' For Ofsted Inspections To Go Back Into Classrooms During The Covid Pandemic.

A leader of the country's biggest teaching union has said it would be "totally unacceptable" for Ofsted inspectors to go into classrooms when its monitoring inspections start in the new year.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, has issued a warning to the inspectorate after it published new guidance on the inspections it is planning to carry out from next month.

Ofsted has said that it will be able to carry out most of its inspection activity when it returns to schools in January, after taking advice from Public Health England.

But the watchdog has declined to comment when asked whether its inspections will include classroom visits.


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Dr Bousted told Tes that inspectors carrying out lesson observations in person would undermine schools' Covid controls and add to the pressure facing teachers.

She said: "If they think that inspectors can go into school and be wandering around, going into classrooms and speaking to teachers, looking at lessons or carrying out book scrutiny, then that is just totally unacceptable. 

"Not only because it would undermine Covid security but also because teachers and leaders are stressed to the gills right now and this would only add to that stress."

Ofsted inspections were suspended in March at the start of the coronavirus crisis.

In September, the inspectorate began a programme of school visits to check on how pupils were being supported to return to full-time education. These visits involved one HMI speaking to school leaders in person but not going into classrooms.

School leaders called for these visits to be carried out remotely amid rising Covid cases - and the visits were moved online during the second national lockdown last month.

The Department for Education announced last week that the return of full graded inspections was being pushed back until the summer term. However, it said that Ofsted would be carrying out "supportive" monitoring inspections from January.

Now the watchdog has announced that it will be able to carry out most inspection activities during these inspections in the new year.

Dr Bousted added: "School leaders need to know now exactly how Ofsted is planning to do these monitoring visits. If I were a headteacher faced with this and told that an adult from outside your school is going to come in and potentially move between bubbles in your school, I would simply say, 'No, that cannot happen.' It is not Covid secure."

Ofsted guidance published today says: "We have taken advice from Public Health England about how to undertake our inspection activities safely. It will still be appropriate to carry out most inspection activity as inspectors will continue to take appropriate precautions.

"What precautions are needed will vary from school to school and activity to activity, but inspectors will always ensure that they are acting safely and within the clear guidance given. As is usual with monitoring inspections, we will not be carrying out our deep-dive methodology."

Last week, Ofsted declined to comment when asked by Tes if inspectors would be going into classrooms. The watchdog has said an "operations document" would be published in due course.

Ofsted has produced detailed guidance today on how its inspections will work. However, this document does not make clear whether inspectors will be going into classrooms.

The guidance says: "Inspectors will ensure that all activities are carried out within the Covid-19 guidelines.

"The lead inspector's initial call with the school will include a discussion of the relevant Covid-19 restrictions, how inspectors can work effectively within the protective measures leaders have in place, and what impact the restrictions have had on the school and its improvement work."

Ofsted has also declined to comment on Dr Bousted's comments.

Schools can highlight Covid restrictions in their area as a reason to request to defer an Ofsted inspection.

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