The Liberal Democrats education spokesman in the House of Lords has praised Ofsted – 24 hours after the party called for it to be abolished.
Lord Storey, a former primary headteacher, said he'd found Ofsted inspections "very supportive and very helpful" – and praised the role the inspectorate had played in shining a light on unregistered schools.
Yesterday the Lib Dems published an education policy paper, Every Child Empowered: Education for a changing world, which is due to be discussed at the party’s Spring Conference. The paper highlights concerns about the “reliability and validity” of Ofsted judgements and “the negative impact of the inspection regime on schools, teachers and pupils”. It suggests replacing Ofsted with "a new HM Inspector of Schools".
However, chairing a Westminster Education Forum event on school accountability today, Lord Storey – who served as a headteacher in two primary schools in Liverpool – praised the inspectorate.
“As somebody who’s had four Ofsted inspections in my schools, I always welcomed the inspections and found them actually very supportive and very helpful," he said.
"Imagine an education world without Ofsted. Presumably, somebody will be keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in our schools and what’s happening? In my view that won’t get us there.”
Lord Storey also applauded Ofsted for its work in highlighting the problem of unregistered schools.
“I don’t think we realise the work that Ofsted sometimes does behind the scenes trying to bring about the change, and then when that change doesn’t happen, actually going public," he said.
"Unregistered schools is a good example of that. Had they not shone a light upon this very difficult area – there’s some appalling practices going on – I don’t think as a society we would take the action which we’ve took at the moment frankly.”
Earlier during the event, Luke Tryl, Ofsted's director of corporate strategy, said he was disappointed by the Lib Dems' proposal to scrap the inspectorate.
"It’s disappointing because actually having looked at the policy paper a lot of it is based on quite outdated information about the way we operate and what we do," Mr Tryl said.
He said that Ofsted had enjoyed a "very good relationship" with the Lib Dems when they were in the coalition government – and that David Laws, the party's schools minister at the time, had been "a great champion" of its work.
"When you remove this school accountability actually results go down," he said.
Mr Tryl continued: "That said we’re not a defensive organisation and we recognise workload is an issue...the same with wellbeing, which came out of the policy paper a lot as well. One of the things I’ve asked my research team to do is to conduct a specific piece of research into teacher wellbeing."
He added: "We’re not closing our eyes to the criticism, but I think the diagnosis is outdated and the solution is the wrong one.”