Spielman: Ofsted unable to do ‘full scrutiny’

Chief inspector warns that the watchdog is finding it 'pretty tough' managing with a 'shrinking budget'

Will Hazell

Amanda Spielman

Ofsted does not have the time to carry out “full scrutiny” of many of the schools it visits because of a “policy decision” to pare back its inspections, the chief inspector said today.  

Amanda Spielman said it was “pretty tough” for Ofsted to do its work on a “shrinking budget”.

Appearing at the Hay Festival, where she was speaking with Tes editor Ann Mroz, Ms Spielman was asked about the reduction in Ofsted’s resources.  

“This is a policy decision that dates back about 13 years now to shrink the kind of inspection that Ofsted does,” she replied.

“Twenty years ago, it was all-signing, all-dancing, individual inspection of every subject and aspect of a school in some detail.

“Starting in 2004 that was taken out and inspection was made much more generic with much smaller teams without expertise in every aspect of what a school did.”

As a result, Ms Spielman said that a primary school with a pre-existing "good" judgment could expect “one day of one inspector” for its inspection.

“You cannot do a full scrutiny of every aspect in that time,” she said.

Teachers 'aren't happy'

Ms Spielman said the decision to “shrink” inspections had also made them less satisfying to classroom teachers.

“In this limited inspection model… most of the conversation happens with the leaders of the school,” she said.

“What’s gone is time to spend significant chunks of time with subject heads, with classroom teachers, giving teachers feedback.

“By and large, when we survey we find that heads are pretty satisfied with the current model.

“But teachers are much less happy because they feel they don’t get the validation, the discussion of what they’re doing, and I can absolutely understand that.

“It’s a real tension for us how, within the very limited envelope we’ve got, we can try and make sure that we give teachers as much constructive input as we can. It’s something that we’re wrestling with.”

According to a report by the National Audit Office published last week, spending on inspections is 52 per cent less in 2017-18 than it was in 1999-2000.

The inspectorate has said it wants to have the power to visit "outstanding" schools routinely, which some people have interpreted as a veiled bid for extra funding. 

When asked whether Ofsted would like more money, Ms Spielman answered: “It’s pretty tough managing what we do on a shrinking budget.”

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Will Hazell

Will Hazell

Will Hazell is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @whazell

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