Damian Hinds has welcomed Ofsted’s new inspection framework tackling unnecessary workload for teachers.
The education secretary had previously voiced concern that a change to the inspection system could result in more work for schools.
However, he has praised Ofsted today for looking to tackle this issue in its plans for a new inspections framework announced today.
“Since I took this post a year ago, I’ve made cutting down unnecessary and bureaucratic workload my top priority," he said. "Accountability is vital.
"We know that perceptions of what Ofsted wants have unintentionally contributed to unnecessary workload – so the fact that this framework addresses this is a hugely positive step forward for all our schools.”
In an exclusive interview with Tes in August, Mr Hinds had warned that plans to overhaul Ofsted’s school inspection framework needed to be balanced against the effect it would have on teacher workload.
Tes understands that Mr Hinds' concerns that the introduction of any new framework would inherently increase workload still stand. However, he has been reassured by what he's heard "so far" about Ofsted's implementation plans.
The watchdog's chief inspector Amanda Spielman has long claimed that the new inspections will help to cut workload.
Today she said: “Workload has, of course, been in front of us in letters of fire as we have worked up these proposals.
"While we know that any kind of accountability necessarily involves some irreducible workload, we have to do what we can to make sure that inspection adds no more burden than it must.
"Under the new leadership and management judgement, we will go further in considering whether leaders are realistic and constructive in managing workload. That does not mean Ofsted trying to drive a wedge between leaders and teachers – far from it.
“Rather, it means getting a sense on inspection as to whether leaders understand and manage the demands they place on their staff.”
Ofsted's plans include a proposal to no longer look at schools' internal data during inspection as part of an attempt to cut down on unnecessary work for teachers.
It is also proposing to judge school leaders on how well they take into account the workload and well-being of their staff “in order to deliver a high-quality education, while also developing and strengthening the quality of the workforce.”
Ofsted is consulting on plans for its new education inspection framework over the next 12 weeks.
Although the inspectorate is independent of government, the support of the education secretary is likely to be key to Ofsted pushing ahead with its plans.
Mr Hinds said: “Ofsted plays a critical role in our system and its inspection of schools, colleges and early years providers has helped drive up education standards across the country. Their inspections give confidence to parents and provide necessary accountability for institutions.
“We have been working closely with Ofsted as it develops this new framework and will continue to do so to make sure we keep raising standards.
“As we have improved the curriculum and reformed GCSEs and A levels, we have been fully united with Ofsted in our drive to ensure all children and young people benefit from an ambitious, broad and balanced curriculum.
"This framework reflects that approach and our continuing activity around exclusions and ‘off-rolling’.
“I welcome this consultation as Ofsted reaches out to teachers, lecturers, early years providers, parents and leaders through the most comprehensive framework development in Ofsted’s history.”
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has sounded a note of caution about Ofsted’s plan to assess how leaders deal with staff workload.
He said: “The proposal to judge leaders on how well they manage teacher workload is laudable in its intention, but inspectors will need to take into account the fact that workload is often driven by external factors such as government reforms to exams and the curriculum, and a school funding crisis which is driving up class sizes and thus generating more work for teachers in charge of those classes.”