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Ofsted: 'Loaded' survey questions anger teacher trainers

Concerns that Ofsted is prejudging what makes a good curriculum in initial teacher education

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Teacher training providers have hit back at a questionnaire from Ofsted that they say is biased.

The questionnaire has been sent to providers in both universities and schools to ask about curriculum quality.


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But the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, which represents higher-education providers, is not recommending that members fill it in – saying it contains loaded questions.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of UCET, said: “I thought the survey was jumping the gun a bit and some of the questions did seem a bit loaded. I think it was not deliberate, but if they had shown it to us in advance we might have smoothed the waters.

“To some extent, it did pre-empt what counts as good practice, by the nature of the questions they were asking. So ‘How do you do x, y and z in your programme?’...[That] assumes x, y and z are good practice.

“I think Ofsted should look at quality of provision in the context of Teachers' Standards and the initial teacher education requirements, which are set by the secretary of state. This survey suggests they want to identify good content over and above what the regulatory framework is.

“I do not feel able to forward it to members and recommend they complete it.”

There are three versions of the survey: one for the provider, one for current trainees and one for newly qualified teachers.

The survey is understood to be for Ofsted’s own information, and not part of the official inspection of initial teacher education.

But there have been criticisms that questions on the survey are poorly designed.

One anonymous provider said: “I’m concerned by the nature of the questionnaire and what it hopes to achieve. The questions appear to be quite negatively posed.”

Viv Ellis, professor of educational leadership and teacher development at King’s College, London, resigned from Ofsted’s external advisory group on initial teacher education earlier this week, citing the surveys as contributing to his decision.

In replies to his tweet, other teacher educators expressed their concerns.

Jan Rowe, of Liverpool John Moores University, said she and her team had chosen not to respond to the questionnaire “as it appeared designed to confirm pre existing biases”.

Professor Ellis also said he was concerned about the composition of Ofsted's expert groups.

Both Mr Noble-Rogers and Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association for School-Based Teacher Trainers, are on the advisory group.

Ms Hollis said: “The external advisory group did not see the questionnaire before it went out. If we had, I think we could have probably pre-empted criticisms and shaped it slightly differently. I do think there is good representation of the sector on the group.”

An Ofsted spokesperson said: "The DfE is responsible for the ITE curriculum. The core content framework sets out the department’s view on the content required to train teachers to meet appropriate standards. Ofsted does not, and will not, have a preferred curriculum model in its next ITE framework. Our research will promote discussion within the sector. This mirrors the work the research team did to support the new Education Inspection Framework. Responses to the survey are completely optional, but all views and challenge are welcome. We encourage everyone to reply openly and honestly to support us in this work."

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