No-notice inspections are a zombie education policy

Boris Johnson's announcement of Ofsted dawn raids is the fifth time in a decade that the idea has been proposed

Ed Dorrell


It is the policy that just won’t die. 

Back in 2009, when Tes was still the Times Educational Supplement, when we dealt with newsprint, not click-throughs, I was the relatively new news editor. 
I remember getting excited about a story that then Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert was proposing to bring in “dawn raids” – which was and is journalistic shorthand for no-notice inspections.
My relative enthusiasm was soon shot down by one of our more cynical and long-standing reporters (I think it was William Stewart, now news editor) who explained patiently that it could never work and would soon be dropped.
He was right: the reality of how it couldn’t actually work in practice, and wouldn’t be fair, meant that the idea was soon shelved. 
Jump forward a decade, and yesterday evening the policy was revealed to an excitable mainstream media for the fourth time since Gilbert’s proposal.
Michaels Gove and Wilshaw both had the bright idea in 2011 and 2014 of exploring dawn raids, only to drop them, and current chief inspector Amanda Spielman proposed near-as-damn-it no-notice inspections as recently as the start of this year. She soon rowed back, too.
And now I’m the veteran hack, confidently predicting that Boris Johnson’s cynical, vote-grabbing plan will soon be confined to electoral history. Once the dust has settled on the election – and the need to contrast themselves with Labour’s promise to abolish Ofsted has dissipated – the Conservatives will soon abandon the idea once more.
But the reality of the way education politics works in this country means I also predict that it will come up again. Maybe not next year, maybe not even the year after that – but it will come again.
Truly, no-notice inspection is the zombie education policy that cannot die.

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Ed Dorrell

Ed Dorrell

Ed Dorrell is deputy editor and head of content at the TES, former features and comment editor and former news editor. 

Find me on Twitter @Ed_Dorrell

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