Exclusive: Gibb wants MATs and Ofsted GCSEs peace deal

Schools minister trying to broker an understanding but Tes understands Ofsted does not intend to back down in row over three-year GCSE courses

Dove with olive branch

Schools minister Nick Gibb is trying to broker a peace deal between Ofsted and the academy trusts that have questioned the watchdog's clampdown on three-year GCSE courses, Tes can reveal. 

A series of meetings on the subject are expected to start as early as next week, with each attended by the minister, Ofsted and one of the multi-academy trusts concerned.

But Ofsted's chief inspector Amanda Spielman is said to be unlikely to give way over the watchdog's concerns that three-year GCSEs can narrow the curriculum.


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Ofsted’s new curriculum-focused inspections have faced strong criticism in recent weeks from influential MAT leaders who claim that schools are being penalised for shortening key stage 3 in order to run the longer GCSE courses.

The chief executives of the Harris Federation and Outwood Grange Academies Trust have described the new Ofsted set-up as a "middle-class framework for middle-class kids". Ofsted pushed back against this criticism at the launch of its  annual report last week.

But Dame Rachel de Souza, the chief executive of Inspiration Trust, has said she "agrees 100 per cent" with the leaders' comments.

And the Inspiration Trust's director of standards Claire Heald, who is the executive principal of Jane Austen College in Norwich, said that running three-year GCSEs allowed her school to broaden the subjects available to pupils.

The row is thought to have put Department for Education (DfE) ministers in a difficult position, as Ofsted and academy trusts have previously promoted similar messages about behaviour, academisation, a "rigorous" approach to pedagogy and knowledge-rich curricula.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “We meet regularly with the Department for Education and important education sector stakeholders.”

The Harris Federation and the Inspiration Trust did not wish to comment.

The Department for Education and Outwood Grange Academies Trust have been approached for comment.

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