The chief inspector of Ofsted has said a “culture of fear” has built up around Ofsted’s ratings.
Amanda Spielman said the whole system had a responsibility “not to manufacture tension”, and that some school leaders were guilty of obsessing too much about Ofsted judgments.
Speaking at an event in Birmingham this morning hosted by Ark multi-academy trust, Ms Spielman was asked about the belief among school leaders that Ofsted ratings can be “career threatening”.
Ms Spielman responded that there was “collective responsibility to take down a level of anxiety” and “a culture of fear has built up over the years.”
She said some of this was “about perception rather than reality,” with research showing the relationship between headteacher turnover and Ofsted outcomes is “nothing like as strong link as people assume.”
But Ms Spielman said that some school leaders were guilty of ramping up fear about Ofsted.
“I think there’s a wide responsibility across the system just to take some of that [anxiety] back down to try and match reality," she said.
“There are quite a few heads in the system who write blogs that spin up levels of anxiety. It’s not just the various parts of government… there’s also a responsibility in the whole education system not to manufacture tension which shouldn’t be there.”
Earlier on in her speech, Ms Spielman suggested that some school leaders focus too much on Ofsted ratings.
“Getting or keeping an outstanding judgment should never be a school’s main aim,” she said. “If our horizons narrow down to just an Ofsted grade then something is seriously wrong.”
She said she had recently spoken to a chair of governors who had been interviewing candidates to be principal of his academy.
“He came away utterly depressed from the day because he had interviewed six people, some of them with considerable strengths, but they had all made the focus of their presentation… ‘how I will get this school an outstanding grade’.
“Not a good thing… to make that the limit of your aspiration,” she added.
Ms Spielman also said some schools were devoting too little time Key Stage 3 because of their “desire to cover the new GCSE content”.
“The idea that any school can teach KS3 history in just 38 hours – there was a report yesterday in Tes about a school which was doing that – that’s is quite shocking,” she said.
“It’s hard to imagine that’s giving pupils what they deserve.”