Schools minister Nick Gibb has accused Ofsted of a “reign of error” in which the watchdog effectively forced schools to adopt new teaching styles with an emphasis on independent learning.
Speaking at the Research Ed conference in London today, Mr Gibb said that, for several years until 2013, inspection “became geared towards imposing its preferred teaching style on the profession.”
He said that as recently as 2013, Ofsted’s reports on secondary schools “showed a preference for pupils learning independent of teacher instruction” or “criticised lessons where teachers talk too much”.
He referred to this period as a “reign of error” and said Ofsted’s support for independent learning had “directly contradicted the common sense of hundreds of thousands of teachers”.
“For many schools, pupils working independently became more important than pupils actually learning,” he said.
However, he added, the watchdog was no longer taking this approach. “We’ve worked with Ofsted to make sure inspectors don’t penalise teachers who teach from the front,” he said.
An Ofsted spokesman agreed, saying: "As HM chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has repeatedly made clear, Ofsted does not have a preferred teaching style. It is up to the classroom teacher to determine how they should teach."
During his speech at the conference, which is being held at South Hampstead High School in London, Mr Gibb also said academies and free schools were “not necessarily better” than maintained schools, but that the new education “ecosystem” gave schools greater freedom and allowed new approaches to flourish.