School 'mocksteds' adding pressure to teacher workloads

Panic over Ofsted's 'light touch' visits next term are adding yet more stress and work to teachers, conference hears

Dave Speck and Charlotte Santry

Ofsted are said to be considering whether it can carry out graded inspections next term.

Ofsted's decision to carry out "lighter touch" inspections next term has led to schools "panicking" and added to teachers' workloads, union members heard today.

The concerns were raised at today's virtual conference being held by the NASUWT teaching union.

Wendy Duffus, of NASUWT walsall Association, said of Ofsted’s “lighter touch” inspections: “How is this affecting our members? Schools are panicking and adding extra workload to teachers and middle leaders."

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Some schools carried out lesson observations and 'mocksteds' as early as the first week of schools reopening in March, she added.

She said: "They are preparing for deep dives and drop-ins and learning walks and that has led to [teachers being placed on] increased support plans and capability [proceedings] as well as extra administrative work. This has also led to members needing increasing support from case workers."

The conference this morning voted for a motion calling on their union executive to lobby the government to make Ofsted inspections more supportive - to enable school leaders to focus on catch-up work and wellbeing.

Representatives at the virtual conference argued today that teachers should be provided with the time and space to focus on working with pupils to recover lost learning - and that this must be the priority in the coming months, along with supporting the mental recovery of pupils and education staff.

Time to recover 

The return to full school inspections needed to be carefully timed and supported, rather than distract, from schools’ work to deal with the continuing challenges created by Covid, the conference also heard.

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, and also on teachers and the wider school workforce.

“In moving forward from the events of the last year we need a sustainable programme of education recovery that recognises that teachers and support staff in schools are not an expendable resource, and that their wellbeing lies at the heart of any effective recovery programme for children and young people.

“The inspection system can and should support schools in addressing the impact of the pandemic, through sharing good practice and in examining the ways in which schools can put in place working practices which recognise staff as skilled professionals.

“The rupture created by the pandemic provides an opportunity to examine and address some of the shortcomings of the way in which the accountability system currently operates to ensure we can build a system which genuinely supports schools to improve and flourish.

“The starting point for such a change must be the acceptance by policymakers that quality education can only be achieved and sustained if schools identify and address the pressures on staff, including issues relating to workload and wellbeing.”

Ofsted has been contacted for comment.

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Dave Speck and Charlotte Santry

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