Ofsted inspectors are unnecessarily adding to schools’ workload by asking for evidence and information that they are not supposed to request, a survey of headteachers has revealed.
Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary Geoff Barton has called for greater consistency in Ofsted inspections to reduce the amount of work schools are facing.
He warned that schools needed to cut the burden of unnecessary work because of the impact it has on staff welfare, and teacher recruitment and retention.
In a recent video, Working Together on Workload, Ofsted’s national director of education, Sean Harford, listed a number of “myths” about what inspectors want to see when they visit schools.
Its training programmes also focus on ensuring inspectors are consistent about what they ask to see.
However, a survey by the ASCL has shown that hundreds of schools are being asked to provide evidence that the union said is not supposed to be requested.
The school leaders’ union questioned 476 headteachers, deputy heads and assistant heads of English secondary schools inspected since the beginning of 2016.
The survey revealed that despite Ofsted not requiring schools to predict the attainment or progress score of their pupils, 62 per cent of leaders were asked to predict pupil attainment and 47 per cent were asked for predicted progress scores.
Ofsted also says it does not require extensive tracking of how pupils are doing, but almost half of respondents (45 per cent) said their school was asked to provide this information.
The ASCL said that there were signs of improvement in both these areas with 8 per cent fewer respondents reporting such requests in 2017 and 2018 compared with 2016.
The union also acknowledged consistency in some areas of Ofsted inspection. Nearly all respondents (98 per cent) said they were not asked for individual lesson plans, 99 per cent said inspectors had not specified how lesson planning should be set out, and 94 per cent said they were not asked for written records of oral feedback given to students.
Mr Barton said: “It seems as if Ofsted is making progress in ensuring that its inspection teams do not make requests for evidence, in line with its own myth-busting guidance. But in certain key areas, there is clearly some way to go if Ofsted is to show the level of consistency that it would rightly expect from school leaders.
"It is essential inspections are consistent and that no school is asked to provide evidence which generates unnecessary workload."
Mr Harford said: "Inspection should never detract from the delivery of a good education for children. That is why we take concerns about teacher workload seriously. To play our part in reducing workload, we have campaigned continuously over the last few years to dispel myths about what schools are expected to produce for inspectors.
"At the same time, our inspector training programmes focus on ensuring inspectors are consistent about what they actually ask to see. We have made strides in this area, but we acknowledge that more work is needed to get to the place we all want to be.”