Two influential grassroots groups of school leaders have produced a damning verdict on Ofsted’s plans for a new inspection framework.
The Headteachers’ Roundtable and the WorthLess? funding campaigners have published a joint response which raises major concerns about the majority of changes Ofsted is proposing for school inspection.
It criticises the inspectorate for failing to acknowledge the impact that school funding is having on the curriculum in its plans for new inspections.
And it also calls for trial inspections of a “no grading inspection system” to support a narrative style report on what a schools should do to further improve the “quality of education”.
Quick read: 24 slides which set out Ofsted's plans
Need to know: The new inspection framework
Background: Why I am leaving teaching
Ofsted is currently consulting on a new inspection framework, which will promote the importance of the curriculum through a new quality of education grade.
However the response from the Headteachers' Roundtable group and the WorthLess? campaign, the latter led by head Jules White (pictured), criticises this recommendation and opposes many of the inspectorate’s key plans for the future.
It disagrees with:
- Plans to introduce a quality of education judgement
- Extending short inspections of good schools to two days
- An inspector arriving at a morning’s notice for on site preparation before inspection starts the next day
- Inspectors no longer looking at internal schools data
The response also voices concern about Ofsted’s plan to separate pupils' personal development and welfare from their behaviour.
The Headteachers’ Roundtable and the WorthLess? Campaign response says creating a separate behaviour judgement risks alternative provision and schools supporting large numbers of pupils with social emotional mental health needs being “increasingly vulnerable to an adverse behaviour judgement.”
On the quality of education judgement proposal, the joint response supports “the move towards a greater discussion of curriculum within the inspection process.”
But it adds: "The framework has a very strong focus on cultural transmission; this has limited other philosophical perspectives – personal empowerment, preparation for work or preparation for citizenship. Whilst these philosophies of education are not mutually exclusive they are distinct and lead to different emphasis within the curriculum all of which have value."
The groups also criticise Ofsted's plan to focus on the Ebacc when judging schools, saying it "is not supported by an evidential base and infers a lack of independence by the inspectorate".
It also criticises the Ofsted handbook on the issue of school funding and the impact this has on curriculum delivery.
The response says: “The current substantial underfunding of schools and increasing lack of teachers, in certain subjects and particularly at a secondary level, is having an adverse effect on schools’ curriculum.
“A lack of funding is impacting on many schools; the lack of specialist teachers is disproportionately felt by schools in more challenging circumstances. There is no recognition of these challenges within the framework or handbook.”
The response comes as it was revealed that the chair of the Headteachers' Roundtable group, Stephen Tierney, is leaving the profession later this year, citing the pressure of "pernicious accountability".
The WorthLess? campaign has already led a national protest about school funding.
The two groups also say that Ofsted has presented no evidence that it “would be able to increase the reliability of its processes or validity of its conclusions by extending inspection of good schools from one to two days.”
And it describes the plan for an inspector to arrive for on-site inspect as a move to no-notice inspections.
It adds: “The proposal to move to a no-notice inspection is unacceptable. It shows limited understanding of the role of school leaders in developing local and regional partnerships and maintaining an outward facing element to their role.”
An Ofsted spokesperson said: "Our proposed inspection framework is the result of over a year of research, developmental work and extensive engagement with a wide range of stakeholders.
"The draft criteria have also been tested in a series of pilot inspections, which will continue throughout the spring term. We are confident that it is most evidence-based, researched and transparent framework in our history.
“This is the first time we have consulted on the detail of the draft inspection handbooks, and there’s been a very positive response from across the education sector to having sight of them.
"The consultation, which closes on 5 April, has been our largest date in terms of both the material available for comment and the number of responses received.
“We will be taking all responses into account and will publish our full response to the consultation in May.”
The consultation on its proposed new education inspection framework runs until the end of next week.