Spielman: 'No evidence' cuts are harming education

Chief inspector's comments prompt union to call for the abolition of Ofsted because it is 'not doing the right job'

John Roberts

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman

Ofsted has no evidence that the quality of education has been affected by school funding cuts, Amanda Spielman said today.

The chief inspector was pushing back against criticism from the Commons Public Accounts Committee that she had not spoken out or answered MPs' questions about the impact of funding pressures.

Ms Spielman told Radio 4’s Today programme: “We haven't seen anything yet from school inspections that says that schools are unable to provide a good quality of education by reason of funding."

Her comments prompted NEU teaching union joint general secretary boss Kevin Courtney to call for the abolition of Ofsted because it was “unable to speak truth to power”.

Mr Courtney highlighted cuts to arts, dance, drama and design and technology and reductions in special needs support as examples of the way funding pressures are affecting education.

MPs’ criticism of Ms Spielman comes in a new report published today by the Public Accounts Committee, which says that Ofsted cannot deliver the assurance parents need because inspections have been cut back.

It warns that Ofsted's credibility could evaporate if inspection is eroded any further.

The committee also says it was disappointed that Ms Spielman did not provide “clearer or more direct answers" when asked about the impact of funding pressures on the breadth of the curriculum, and concerns about pupils' mental health and wellbeing.

Ofsted 'trying to blame schools'

It has called on her to write to the committee by next month with “her reflections on the main risks to schools' effectiveness and the systemic cause of poor performance, including the impact of funding pressures”.

Speaking on Radio 4 today, Ms Spielman added: "We know there are many things that affect the allocation decisions that schools make. What we haven't seen is any evidence from what we do that says reductions in school spending are responsible for that.

"It makes wonderful headlines when chief inspectors express opinions that aren't backed up by their evidence, but it doesn't make for such good decisions."

Speaking on the same programme, Mr Courtney said: “I disagree profoundly with Amanda Spielman. There is huge evidence of the multiple effects that cuts are having on the standards of children’s education that is going to impact on their life chances.”

Mr Courtney suggested Ofsted had not found evidence because it focused too heavily on exam results. 

He said: “I am really surprised that Amanda Spielman told you that she has been able to do less because of budget cuts. I am surprised she doesn’t see it in schools. I think Ofsted is not doing the right job. We need an inspectorate that will speak truth to power.

"Ofsted is trying to blame schools for becoming exam factories instead of telling the government that they are running our education system wrongly.

"And to cap it all, to say that the education budget isn’t having an impact – it tells you that we don’t really have an independent inspectorate that is speaking truth to the government. I think we need to go back to HMI.”

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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