'Nobody in their right mind' wants Ofsted in January

Labour's shadow education minister Wes Streeting says Ofsted returning to inspection is the 'wrong priority'

John Roberts

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Labour's shadow schools minister has said that "nobody in their right mind" thinks Ofsted should resume its routine inspections in January.

Wes Streeting told the Schools and Academies Show that this was the wrong priority to have during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ofsted inspections are currently scheduled to resume in January next year – although this date is under review.

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Both education secretary Gavin Williamson and chief inspector Amanda Spielman told the event yesterday that discussions were still ongoing about how inspections will resume in the new year.

Mr Streeting said: "Nobody in their right mind thinks that it is desirable, let alone practical, to resume routine Ofsted inspections in January.

"What do we expect inspectors to find? They won't be routine conditions.

"How do we expect schools, local authorities and multi-academy trusts to release headteachers to make those inspections happen. It is the wrong focus, the wrong priority.

"We think Ofsted's time and expertise would be better spent on areas that we know a lot of people are concerned about: catch-up provision for lost learning, the quality of education for children in isolation at home and safeguarding issues for children and young people in the pandemic."

Speaking after the event, Mr Streeting told Tes he did not think Ofsted should be inspecting schools' remote learning provision because it did not have a framework to support this.

He said that, instead, Ofsted should be carrying out research on how it is being done to provide evidence to support schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Streeting added: "Time that is being spent with Gavin Williamson and Amanda Spielman going back and forth on the return of inspection is time that would be better spent focusing on issues that need urgent attention now, such as funding, exams and what on earth is going on with the provision of laptops."

He also suggested Labour's plan to abolish and replace Ofsted at the last election had led to some people thinking they were going soft on school standards.

During an interview with former schools minister David Laws at the Schools and Academies Show, Mr Streeting was asked whether he supported the idea of getting rid of the inspectorate.

Mr Streeting said: "What I would say to people about how to approach us in the shadow education team is don’t tell us what you want to scrap, tell us what you want to build.”

He added: “Ultimately if we didn’t have Ofsted we would have to reinvent it. Simply hoping we can scrap Ofsted and all the problems people have with an external inspections regime goes away – I am not sure that is right."

Commenting on Labour’s last election manifesto, he said: “I think what Labour got wrong, if I can be frank, before the last election was that the public heard the 'scrap Ofsted' bit. They didn’t hear the 'we want to replace it with something better' bit.

"And as a result, I can tell you that one cut through pretty quickly to parents and grandparents who were saying, ‘Why are you going soft on standards?' 

"That is not where I am prepared to be or where I think the Labour Party should be.”

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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