Accountability, growth mindset and women who are going to hell: 8 things we learnt from the Ofsted annual report

This morning, Amanda Spielman launched her organisation's first annual report since taking up the post of Ofsted chief inspector

Adi Bloom

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In it, she drew attention to the fact that around 130 schools have not achieved either a "good" or "outstanding" rating at any time in the last decade.

Here are some other points that emerged from the annual report – and from the speech Amanda Spielman gave presenting it:

  1. Increases in test scores do not necessarily mean an improvement in educational standards
    “While tests are important and useful,” the annual report states, “they do not, and can never, reflect the entirety of what pupils need to learn. Exams should exist in the service of the curriculum, rather than the other way around.”
  2. She is aware that Ofsted is seen as part of the accountability problem
    “We understand the pressure that leads to some of the undesirable things we see,” she said, referring to schools that focus on exams at the expense of broader education. However, she added: “Human judgement should complement performance tables.”
  3. Converting to academies does not guarantee that failing schools improve
    Some of the 130 schools that have failed to achieve a "good" rating have become academies. Some are in multi-academy trusts (MATs). This has not, however, had an impact on their performance.
  4. There is a tendency among headteachers for disadvantage one-upmanship
    “A few years ago, you couldn’t go into a school without hearing about the numbers of home languages spoken by the pupils,” Ms Spielman said. Nowadays, headteachers tend to refer to high proportions of pupil-premium funding or pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
    “Depressingly, I still hear things like, ‘If you met my children’s parents, you’d understand why our results are as low as they are’,” she added.
  5. This is all about mindset
    “What I’m advocating here, really, is a bit more growth mindset for schools,” Ms Spielman said. “They’re absolutely right that they’ve got big and daunting challenges. But we should be encouraging them to think: what’s the next step? To think about what can be done.”
  6. Ofsted is very keen to be granted power to inspect MATs
    Despite the Department for Education’s insistence that it will not extend Ofsted’s powers to inspect MATs, the annual report states: “We will work with the DfE to develop new approaches and expertise to allow us to better scrutinise the performance of MATs in future.”
  7. Sexist tracts are being distributed in some independent faith schools
    “The most basic checks, such as whether staff were suitable to work with children, were not in place,” the report states. “Perhaps more significantly, in a handful of schools inspectors found instances of sexist and sectarian literature.” For example, Ms Spielman spoke about discovering a book entitled Women Who Are Going to Hell.
  8. Ofsted would like the power to seize such books
    Matthew Coffey, the inspectorate’s chief operating officer, said: “We’re not allowed to seize any information we find. We’ve seen inappropriate books, but we can’t take those away.
    “We inform the regulator straight away, but it could be that the books have gone, by the time we come back. We want to be able to seize those books right away.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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