Education secretary Damian Hinds failed to dispel suggestions of a rift with Ofsted today as he repeatedly declined to give clear backing to the watchdog’s plans to change its school inspection framework.
Ofsted has revealed that it wants to downgrade the importance it places on exam results during school inspections.
But the Department for Education sounded less than supportive in its immediate reaction to the plan.
This morning Mr Hinds only added to that impression when he conspicuously failed to offer his whole-hearted backing.
During an interview with Radio 4’s Today programme, the secretary of state was given four opportunities to explicitly support Ofsted’s plans and avoided doing so every time.
Asked twice whether he welcomed Ofsted’s plan to penalise “exam factory” schools, Mr Hinds would only say that “there is an awful lot more to education, an awful lot more to schooling, an awful lot more to growing up than getting exams”. He added that exams were “important” but there needed to be a “broad view” of education.
Ofsted plans to overhaul school inspection
Asked whether chief inspector Amanda Spielman was right to voice concerns about primary schools that narrowed their curriculum in Year 6 to only focus on English and maths in preparation for Sats, he again declined to give a straight “yes”.
“Look, I am not going to generalise about what schools do but we don’t want to have too much emphasis, too much focus on Sats or, indeed, later on in school, exam courses starting too early because there is a whole breadth of things to discover,” Mr Hinds said.
The interviewer then tried for a final time, asking whether the minister was backing Ms Spielman and thought she was “going down the right road”.
But once again Mr Hinds did not offer clear support, saying only that: “There is a process to go through on re-examining the Ofsted framework. That happens periodically and it’s right that we do it.”
Ofsted’s plans would mean a major overhaul of school inspection from 2019. As Tes revealed yesterday, the watchdog plans to scrap the teaching and learning grade to make way for a new quality of education grade.
Ofsted has also had discussions about the future of the overall school effectiveness grade but has decided to keep it because of its importance to both parents and the government.