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Ofsted doesn't improve results and makes staff nervous, survey finds

More than 90 per cent of teachers say that school inspections make no difference to pupils’ academic results, according to a new survey.

Meanwhile, 93 per cent of teachers say that inspections contribute to stress, and 88 per cent have developed symptoms of anxiety in advance of the inspector's visit.

More than 800 teachers were questioned as part of a survey carried out on behalf of the Teacher Support Network.

Only 8 per cent said they believed that inspections helped to improve pupils’ academic results. Similarly, just 10 per cent said that inspections made a positive difference to their own performance.

In addition, the majority – 79 per cent – of teachers said that school inspections had a negative effect on their mental and emotional health. And according to 31 per cent of headteachers and 41 per cent of classroom teachers, the pressure of being inspected leads to depression.

Julian Stanley, chief executive of the Teacher Support Network, said that about 13,000 of the 30,000 calls the helpline received each year concerned Ofsted. Even teachers previously rated as outstanding, he said, feared their reputation rested on maintaining that standard.

“There’s a lot of pressure on teachers to perform on the day,” he said. “Any of us who have to pass a test or jump through a hoop will be concerned about whether or not we’re going to get through to the other side. There’s a lot riding on it.”

One of the survey’s respondents, a 54-year-old secondary teacher from Lincolnshire, said that she ended up leaving her full-time job because of the stress of inspections and class observations. She now works as a supply teacher.

“Schools are still terrified of Ofsted, and expect teachers to jump through these unnecessary hoops,” she said. “Everyone wants to be seen to be doing their best, but teachers don’t have enough time to do everything. In some ways, inspections do make you want to do things right, but it’s either at the expense of your family time or of lesson time.”

As alternatives, staff suggested shorter or less-frequent inspections. Some said that they would like more notice before the inspector called. Others recommended abolishing inspections altogether, in favour of peer assessment.

Almost three-quarters – 72 per cent – said that inspections should include an assessment of staff well-being. And 53 per cent said they would benefit from more detailed feedback from inspectors.

“The thing that helps most of us, if we’re struggling, is information about how we can do things differently,” Mr Stanley said. “So feedback is critical."

Ofsted is currently consulting on its proposals for a new inspection framework. The Teacher Support Network results have been submitted to the inspectorate for consideration.

An Ofsted spokesman said that the inspectorate had conducted its own survey of 850 schools earlier this year. Almost 85 per cent said that the inspection process had helped them to improve.

“We recognise that inspection can be stressful, but also know that it is essential to give parents an objective view of a school’s performance,” he said. “All our inspectors have a professional background in education, and more than half of inspection teams include a serving teacher. They all know what it’s like to be inspected.”

Related stories:

Sir Tim Brighouse: my three-part plan to radically rethink Ofsted - 22 November 2014

Ofsted data reveals "weakness and inconsistency of inspections" - 21 November 2014

Ofsted: teachers swamped by marking needed for inspections - 14 November 2014

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