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No-notice Ofsted inspections treat teachers like 'naughty children', claim heads

Ofsted has been accused of treating teachers like “naughty children” after its chief inspector revealed it could introduce routine no-notice inspections.

Sir Michael Wilshaw yesterday announced that the watchdog would be targeting up to 40 schools in a fortnight-long series of snap inspections, and added that he was “giving thought to whether Ofsted should move to more routine no-notice inspections”.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has condemned the proposals as “unnecessary” and “counterproductive”. “It stifles creativity and treats professionals like naughty children,” he said.

“School leaders need to be held accountable, but at the same time inspection needs to be proportionate. Schools currently only receive half a day’s notice. This is the absolute minimum time needed so that key staff and governors are available to meet with inspectors, and staff can gather the facts and figures that inspectors need during their visit.

“In addition, a move to routine no-notice inspections would undermine the government’s policy of encouraging the best school leaders to support other schools. Heads would think twice before taking the risk of missing their own school’s inspection.”

In yesterday’s announcement, Ofsted revealed that it was planning to make increasing use of no-notice inspections where concerns are raised over safeguarding, rapidly-declining standards, the curriculum, leadership or governance.

The first wave of snap inspections will include schools already scheduled for inspections, as well as others where concerns have emerged in recent weeks.

“Parents rightly expect Ofsted inspections to get to the heart of any problems that may exist in a school – whether they are to do with discipline, safeguarding, poor leadership or governance, or a narrow, unbalanced curriculum,” Sir Michael said. “That’s why we’ve expanded the criteria for conducting unannounced inspections for the coming year.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, penned an open letter echoing Mr Lightman's concerns in which he said Ofsted's plans showed a "profound lack of trust" in school leaders.

The move to introduce no-notice inspections, he added, was due to the watchdog reacting to its own "failings" during the Trojan Horse scandal that took place a raft of schools in Birmingham.

"When Ofsted inspected these schools originally it found nothing wrong. It was school leaders in Birmingham who held the line for the entitlements of students and some of them lost their jobs in the process. I find it astonishing that head teachers should be made to pay the price for the failings of Ofsted and other agencies in this affair," Mr Hobby writes.

And he adds: "We support the use of no notice inspections where there are serious safeguarding issues (although, without effective local monitoring, I cannot see how any of the proposed triggers would have worked in Birmingham) but we oppose the routine use of no notice inspection. After all the talk of reconciliation and confidence building, it is disappointing that we have again begun the new term on a note of fear and intimidation."



Related stories:

Ofsted launches wave of no-notice school inspections - September 2014

Ofsted scraps grades for individual lessons - August 2014

Ofsted must scrap 'quality of teaching' from inspections - July 2014

Ofsted to drop grades for teachers' individual lessons in new trial - June 2014

Ofsted should no longer judge quality of teaching, says former Gove aide - May 2014 

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