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Need to know: Amanda Spielman

Ofsted's chief inspector is about to release her second annual report ahead of what could be a career defining year

Amanda Spielman

Ofsted's chief inspector is about to release her second annual report ahead of what could be a career defining year

Amanda Spielman will unveil her second annual report as Ofsted inspector tomorrow at the end of a year when the inspectorate has found itself firmly in the spotlight.

Ofsted has found its capacity, reliability and role questioned in recent months as it balances funding cuts with its own plans to rethink how it inspects schools.

But the watchdog has also seen its place in the school accountability system strengthened with the government stating that it was the job of Ofsted and not regional schools commissioners to visit and inspect schools.

So what will Amanda Spielman’s annual report focus on as the inspectorate prepares for the year which could define her time in this post?

Here is everything you need to know about the key issues facing Ofsted and Ms Spielman ahead of the new report

Thankless task?

When she was appointed as Ofsted’s chief inspector Ms Spielman became only the second non-teacher to take up the role.

Her predecessor Sir Michael Wilshaw was, in some ways, a tough act to follow as he turned the job into that of the nation’s headteacher, making regular and bold pronouncements on school standards.

However, people welcoming Ms Spielman's appointment suggested that in fact the role should be seen as chief regulator and that her spell as chair of Ofqual made her well-suited to the job.

This year though she had faced criticism from the Commons Public Accounts Committee for not being outspoken enough. The committee was unhappy with her response when asked about the impact of funding cuts on education. And their concerns were compounded when she said the inspectorate has not seen evidence of funding cuts impacting on the quality of school education.

Ofsted under fire

By definition Ofsted will never be the most popular organisation in the sector but it has faced widespread criticism this year.

The National Audit Office said that Ofsted could not demonstrate that it provides value for money and warned that its reduced budget meant that the level of assurance it provided about school standards had fallen.

On the back of a NAO report, The Public Accounts Committee went further. It warned that Ofsted’s credibility “would evaporate” if the level of school inspections continued to be cut back.

There was also criticism from a major commission on school accountability led by the National Association of Headteachers which found that the inspectorate was part of system which did "more harm than good".

It questioned the value and reliability of Ofsted inspections carried out in one or two days and called for its plans for a new school inspection framework to be put on hold.

Standards

In her first report last year, Ms Spielman warned of intractable schools which have not been rated as "good" for up to a decade.

And she returned to a similar theme last month when she warned that the existence of about 490 "stuck schools" that have been judged less than "good" since 2005 as “nothing short of a scandal”.

In a letter to the Commons Public Accounts Committee, the chief inspector said Ofsted would carry out research to understand why interventions in these school had failed.

This is likely to be a key theme in a report looking at overall school standards.

Parents

While schools have a role to play in preparing children for adult life, Ms Spielman is expected to challenge parents not to “abdicate” their responsibilities to schools.

At the launch of the annual report tomorrow, she is expected to say: "Yes, schools can and should teach children about the importance of healthy eating and exercise in line with their core purpose; their PE lessons should get them out of breath.

"But beyond that, schools cannot take over the role of health
professionals - and above all parents.

"The answer to the obesity crisis, particularly among younger children, lies in the home, and parents should not abdicate their responsibility here."

And, on children who arrive in reception needing toilet training, she will say it is not only difficult for teachers but has a “terrible social impact” on the children concerned.

“This is wrong,” she will say. “Toilet training is the role of parents and carers and should not be left to schools.

"Only in the most extreme cases should parents be excused from this most basic of parenting tasks."

Knife crime

Similarly, Ms Spielman is expected to say that while schools can play a role in educating young people about the dangers of knives: “They cannot be a panacea for this particular societal ill”.

She will argue that a range of partners and agencies should work together to tackle criminal activity.  

Curriculum

A major focus of Ofsted under Amanda Spielman has been the school curriculum.

Its research has found that some schools were narrowing their focus in the lead up to key stage 2 standard assessment tests (SATs) and GCSEs.

To address this, its new inspection framework aims to promote the importance of schools delivering a rich curriculum and giving less credit to schools that achieve exam success at the expense of a broad education.

Ofsted is proposing scrapping the judgements for outcomes and teaching and learning and assessment, and creating a new, broader "quality of education" judgement under its new framework, which it will launch next year.

It has also said that its new regime will have an increased focus on “off-rolling” schools who remove pupils or encourage them to leave in order to bolster their exam performance.

Ofsted seems determined to crackdown on schools which get results the wrong way.

Workload and wellbeing

Reducing workload is a top priority for both Ofsted and the Department for Education. Ms Spielman told heads earlier this year that the new framework, focused on the substance of education, would reduce teachers' workload.

But some people – including education secretary Damian Hinds – have cautioned that a major change in the way Ofsted inspects will lead to more work.

Will the report look to address the issue of teacher workload and how it can be managed further?

Ofsted has been seeking to debunk what it calls "inspection myths" in an attempt to reduce the workload linked to inspection.

And it has also published the findings of a new survey into teacher wellbeing.

The inspectorate appears keen to present itself as a body that can support the profession. But it remains to be seen whether this will resonate with teachers.

Extending Ofsted’s reach?

Some of the criticism Ofsted faced this year was because of the way inspection has been scaled back by funding cuts. 

Singled out for criticism was the exemption on "outstanding" schools being reinspected – something which Ofsted itself has warned the government is unsustainable.

Ofsted has also made the case for it to be able to inspect the work of multi-academy trusts. At present it can look at MATs through batches of school inspections in the same trust but it wants to be able to assess the MAT itself.

In recent weeks Ofsted has also warned that it needs to be able to do more to assess how independent schools are being inspected and be given more powers to carry out criminal investigations into those running suspected unregistered schools.

Ofsted may face funding pressures and mounting criticisms of its work. But throughout this year it has been on the front foot. Observers will watching to see if that continues tomorrow.

 

 

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