Schools freed from 'scourge of Ofsted teaching style', says Nick Gibb

Schools minister claims that, thanks to government reforms, teachers are now free to pursue the most effective teaching methods

Jonathan Owen

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Education reforms have freed teachers from being dictated to by an "Ofsted teaching style", according to schools minister Nick Gibb.

In a speech at the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association (FASNA) autumn conference today, he said: “By combining greater autonomy, raised expectations and a level playing field for all, the school system has gone from strength to strength”.

Mr Gibb told delegates: “By empowering teachers and headteachers and promoting an atmosphere of innovation and evidence, power is wrestled from the old authorities. Ideas are weighed and, if they are found wanting, they can be discarded.

“No longer does the scourge of the ‘Ofsted teaching style’ dictate pedagogy in English classrooms. Now teachers are free to pursue and debate the most effective teaching methods”.

'Teachers have seized back their profession'

The minister added: “It is no longer the exclusive prerogative of LA advisers or education faculties of universities to dictate pedagogy or curriculum to teachers. Teachers – empowered by our reforms – have seized back their profession.”

His comments contrasted sharply with those of Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, who told Tes last month that increased government targets and data demands had "infantilised" teachers.

Instead of enjoying greater autonomy, Mr Cable said, teachers were “being told what they have to do" by the government.

However, Mr Gibb said today that the government’s drive to create academies and free schools has resulted in decision-making that has “truly been localised and professionalised”.

He also paid tribute to what he described as a “new education commentariat” of teacher-bloggers who are spreading “evidence of what really works in the classroom”.

The minister added that “these classroom teachers provide insight, commentary and challenge from the classroom – making redundant those who seek to speak for teachers”.

Mr Gibb said that the government has “stepped back” to allow teachers, schools and multi-academy trusts to have “control over their destiny”. However, some critics have recently warned that the government is not intervening strongly or consistently enough in academy trusts where serious concerns have been raised.

More to be done

Mr Gibb admitted that challenges remain, stating that “too few pupils are being taught a foreign language".

Less than half of pupils study languages at GCSE. Mr Gibb said that “in an ever-more-globalised world, having an economy with a voracious appetite for people with knowledge of a foreign language and being a great trading nation and host to the world’s financial capital, we must do more to ensure more pupils study languages at GCSE”.

But he concluded that, overall, “rigour has been returned to our education system, with more pupils studying core academic subjects and innovative free schools and academies leading the way in raising standards”.

Responding to the minister's comments, an Ofsted spokesperson said: “The Minister was referring to perceived historic rather than current inspection practice. We have been and will continue to be clear that there is no Ofsted teaching style”.

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Jonathan Owen

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