Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has shed more light on why she is opposed to Ofsted and why a Labour government would abolish the inspectorate.
Ms Rayner was speaking at a Tes fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference this week when she said that single-word inspection grades were driving out support, including the best teachers, from the areas in which they were needed most.
She said: “I think the way that Ofsted has been utilised and the way in which that’s been driven – through this high-stakes testing and this singular rating – has been disingenuous to parents.”
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She added: “This singular inadequate [word] is completely inappropriate and completely unfair on those schools that are absolutely showing excellence and it doesn’t measure what is happening from classroom to classroom, but it pitches schools against schools and I don’t think that is helpful.”
Former Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws, who served in the coalition government, defended Ofsted at the fringe meeting, saying: “When I was a minister, quite often when schools were doing really, really badly and desperately needed intervention of some type, they couldn't always rely on the governing body or the MP or councillors to bring it to account, or sometimes even the local authority if it was a local authority-run school.
“And the thing Ofsted has really been able to give us is the ability to be really blunt and honest about schools that are letting down children.”
But Ms Rayner said she’d visited schools that were still unable to remove their headteacher despite having received a poor leadership outcome from Ofsted.
The fringe meeting, which examined whether parental choice drives school standards, was chaired by Tes editor Ann Mroz (also pictured).
Following the meeting, Mr Laws told Tes that a single-word inspection grade was not the only way of publishing a judgement.
But he said: “Parents need something that is simple enough for them to be able to make comparison. If it requires you to interpret a 30-page report then it’s not going to be any use.
"It has to be short and it has to allow parents to be able to make those comparisons and understand whether their school is a good one or not.”
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector said: “Ofsted has been standing up for the interests of children and parents for over a quarter of a century. It’s a cause that inspires everyone who works here.
"In my time so far as chief inspector we have supported children in challenging circumstances through our work tackling illegal schools and off-rolling, and we have shifted the emphasis in education from a narrow focus on exam results onto the real substance of what children are taught in schools.
“This work must continue. So we’ll keep on raising standards in education through our new model of inspection and we’ll continue to keep the most vulnerable in society safe, through our regulation of children’s social care services across England.”