Ofsted 'uncertain' about 'outstanding' ratings, and nine other things Amanda Spielman tells MPs

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman has appeared in front of MPs in the education select committee. Here's what we learned:

Adi Bloom

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  1. She is uncertain whether the "outstanding" grade should stay or go
    In response to questions pointing out that headteachers and schools do not find the grade useful, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “I’m in the same situation, of having some level of discomfort. Because the noise from the sector is clear, but the noise from parents is very different… I don’t have an easy answer.”
  2. She does not think that early years settings – even the ones rated "good" or "outstanding" – necessarily prepare children well for primary school
    Asked why 93 per cent of early years settings are now rated "good" or "outstanding", while huge gaps in outcomes remain, Ms Spielman said: “Our view is that the looking-after-children side of things is very good. The education side is not so good.
    “Full compliance with the [early-years foundation stage] framework still doesn’t mean that children are well-prepared for primary school. We’ll be reporting on that soon, and hope that will lead to improvement on the education side.”
  3. She thinks 18 per cent is an acceptable pass mark
    The pass mark for this year’s new maths GCSE was 18 per cent. Ms Spielman argued that this came as no surprise: “It was always going to be the case where there was an unusually low pass rate,” she said of this year’s exams.
  4. If religious instruction is a child’s primary method of education, then it should be inspected by Ofsted
    Keen to point out that she was not talking about extending Ofsted’s remit to cover Sunday schools or after-school cultural classes, Ms Spielman said: “Even if a programme is mainly about religious instruction, if it’s someone’s main source of education, then it should be inspected…
    “There needs to be some dividing line that stops Ofsted extending into areas that aren’t people’s main source of education, but I don’t believe full-time education is that diving line.”
  5. She keeps professional relationships professional
    Asked whether her relationship with national schools commissioner Sir David Carter was more amicable than that of her predecessor, she said that she had met with Sir David only yesterday. 
    “If there’s any confusion or duplication in what we do, it’s unhelpful for schools,” she said. “That’s the starting point: how should it be understood at the user end?...I think we’ve got a rapidly evolving model of what regional schools commissioners do, and the fuzziness is probably more on that side of the fence.”
  6. She will continue demanding the right to inspect multi-academy trusts, even if the education secretary denies Ofsted permission to do this
    It is, she said, about “making sure that the accountability that we have fits how the sector actually operates, not how it did 25 years ago. The same is true with early years, where you see more and more chains… There are various places where children become units in a contract, rather than children”.
  7. She disagrees that the Ofsted complaints system is a formality that changes nothing
    “A considerable number of decisions are revisited in the final moderation process,” she said. “And various options are available at that point. You can’t just use changes post-publication [of reports] to judge the effectiveness of the appeals process, because so much is changed earlier on.”
  8. Some areas do not allow for compromise
    Questioned about inspections of faith schools, Ms Spielman said that inspectors are given considerable amounts of sensitivity training. However, she added: “There’s generally a difficulty here between the requirements of equalities law and the desires of some faith communities…
    “The Court of Appeal said that application of equalities law is not a matter of parental choice.”
  9. She stresses that she is interested in pupils
    In response to sceptical comments from MPs, she said: “I’ve sat in many classrooms, listening to how children talk when they’re working. I’ve sat with them at lunchtimes. In every case, I let children talk to me about their lives and their experiences.”
  10. She wants Ofsted to inspect more alternative providers
    Ms Spielman says the watchdog should have new legal powers to inspect unregistered alternative providers, about which there is "great concern".




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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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