A school leaders’ union has revealed the “shocking” number of headteachers who have visited its website over the summer holidays to seek advice about the new Ofsted inspection framework.
The NAHT heads’ union says more than 3,000 of its members have visited its web page that provides answers to practical questions about the new inspection framework, and offers resources to help headteachers handle the new methodology.
NAHT deputy general secretary Nick Brook said: “I was very surprised – shocked even – to see how many of our members had accessed the guidance over the summer, and this shows the levels of anxiety that exists among school leaders. We expect to see more visitors as Inset day approaches.”
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According to the NAHT, heads' main concerns about the new framework include:
The 90-minute phone call (on the day of notification of an inspection) between a headteacher and a lead inspector, which will give headteachers "very little time to prepare".
New expectations on the curriculum, which will constitute “a lot of hard graft over the Autumn term and beyond" for headteachers who are already overburdened
Inconsistency of judgements caused by less reliance on data and inspectors being required to make more professional judgements for which guidance provided by Ofsted “is not clear enough and open to interpretation”.
Mr Brook praised the ambition of the new framework, but said: “We worry that they [Ofsted] have over-promised and that they are going to under-deliver.
Changes to Ofsted school inspections
"The number of members visiting the website does seem to suggest that this is something that is genuinely worrying our members
“We would have hoped teachers and school leaders were recharging their batteries over the summer as they’re often exhausted at the end of term. But we also know that the reality of headship is that some heads will only take two weeks off at the start of the summer [holiday] and not even that."
Mr Brook said headteachers were feeling “a lot of anxiety” about the 90-minute phone call, which he described as “one of the most intense professional experiences a school leader can have”.
He said problems might arise if a call came when a headteacher was out of school, or if they were asked to talk about the strategic vision for their school when “their head was elsewhere”.
“The guidance will help make sure school leaders have got their head in the right place and that this [the phone call] doesn’t come as a nasty surprise,” he added.
Ofsted, which a published an update last month clarifying the purpose and structure of the 90-minute phonecall, says the call is designed to help inspectors form "an initial understanding of leaders’ views of the school’s progress and to shape the inspection plan".
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Three-quarters of the teachers and school leaders who responded to our consultation supported our focus on the curriculum.
"Any change brings some initial uncertainty, but our absolute clarity that inspectors will not look at a school’s internal progress or attainment data should help to reduce unnecessary teacher workload – schools will have no incentive to produce such data for Ofsted.
“We’ll be closely monitoring how the new inspections are received, including receiving feedback from headteacher and teacher associations, as we discussed with the NAHT this week. Anyone wanting to find out more can look at the resources on our website, which explain the changes fully and clearly.”