Whispers of a turf war between Ofsted and regional schools commissioners might feel very distant from the day-to-day lives of teachers, but the overlap between the two groups can have a very real effect.
School leaders affected by the “confusion and contradiction” caused are asking the NAHT heads’ union to help.
Rob Kelsall, one of the union’s senior regional officers, says it is “causing huge anxiety and confusion and delay in regard to the main focus of schools, which is obviously to drive for improvement”.
He adds: “In a number of cases, members have said to us, indeed, that contradictory advice has become a significant barrier to the school improvement journey they are on.”
He cites the example of a school in the East Midlands that he says was given advice from Ofsted about the routes for improvement after being judged “requires improvement”, which was “completely contradicted” by the offices of the RSC.
“That led to many months of tension, anxiety and confusion. Rather than that school going forward on that improvement journey, it got in that cycle where the focus came on who was calling the shots, and, ultimately, the improvement got lost and the end result was not a very satisfactory one,” he adds.
For Kelsall, the overlap increased with the 2016 Education and Adoption Act, which gave RSCs new powers over non-academies, including deciding the future of a new category of “coasting schools”, which are identified purely on the basis of data, with no reference to Ofsted inspection.
He believes there is a “starkness of how inefficient the system is”. “We have got, essentially, two competing government agencies each with their own approach and, in some cases, agendas.”
He adds: “In the midst of this is a leadership team of a school that finds itself, rather than focusing on the real key task of a school leader, feeling very much in the middle of a political battle between the two agencies, which is not healthy for anyone.”