Ofsted has been criticised for giving academy chain leaders advance details of its controversial new inspection framework before other schools.
A group representing multi-academy trust chiefs has been given sight of a working draft of the new inspection handbook before it is officially published later this month, Ofsted has confirmed.
One teaching union leader has questioned whether maintained schools have been given the same access to Ofsted’s inspection plans and accused the inspectorate of being biased towards MATs.
Ofsted said that it had shared working versions of the inspection handbook with teaching unions and other sector representatives, including MAT leaders.
It added: “This engagement with groups representing classroom teachers, headteachers, maintained schools and academies has been extremely helpful in developing the framework for the formal consultation.”
However, despite repeated requests by Tes, Ofsted has not said which groups it considered to be representing the maintained sector or whether any maintained school heads or local authorities had been given access to the inspection handbook
Fears of Ofsted 'political bias' towards academies
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Our union’s position is that Ofsted needs to give schools more time to prepare for the changes it is proposing. Schools need to understand the changes they will need to make.
“If Ofsted has given multi-academy trust leaders access to the new inspections but hasn’t given the same access to maintained schools' leaders or directors of council children’s services, then that is an act of political bias.”
An Ofsted spokesman said: “Ofsted has met with a variety of stakeholders in developing the Education Inspection Framework. As part of that, we have engaged with representatives from the NEU (both ATL and NUT branches), NASUWT, NAHT and ASCL, and other sector representatives, including a group representing MAT leaders, and shared working versions of the handbooks for comment.
"This engagement with groups representing classroom teachers, headteachers, maintained schools and academies has been extremely helpful in developing the framework for the formal consultation.
“The draft handbooks will be publicly available from mid-January as part of our consultation launch of the new inspection arrangements.”
Ofsted is set to launch a consultation on its plans for the new framework on 16 January before starting the new regime in September.
The inspectorate is set to focus more on the school curriculum and less on exam and test scores.
A new quality of education inspection judgement will replace the teaching, learning and assessment and outcomes for pupils categories. Schools will still be given an overall grade of "outstanding", "good", "requires improvement" or "inadequate" under the new framework.
Tes revealed last month that Ofsted's draft handbook includes plans to give schools as little as 150 minutes' notice before inspectors arrive at a school to prepare for inspection the next day.