Ofsted is planning to take middle leaders out of schools on one-year secondments to boost its recruitment of inspectors.
Chief inspector Amanda Spielman has outlined plans to recruit school staff as inspectors in a speech to the Association of School and College Leaders' (ASCL) annual conference today.
She told heads that staff taking part will get access to Ofsted training and gain insight into what different types of schools are doing.
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Ofsted will pilot this approach with its current trained Ofsted inspectors but plans to extend it to any school leader who has had some whole-school responsibility.
Ofsted plan to provide more inspectors
It is expected to be rolled out from January next year.
The announcement comes after the National Audit Office told Ofsted that it needed to come up with a plan to stop it from shedding staff and ensure it has enough people to carry out school inspections.
Ms Spielman said she hoped people who take part in the secondment would stay with the organisation as contracted Ofsted inspectors but said it was not looking to poach school staff into full-time jobs.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton broadly welcomed the plan, but raised concerns about the possibility of it impacting on schools at a time of "very significant teacher shortages".
Speaking to school leaders today, Ms Spielman said: “Our plan is for one-year secondments to Ofsted for middle leaders. They will get access to our training and development, and, through inspection, gain insight into what all different types of schools are doing. We will get their expertise and up-to-date experiences of running a school.
“After 12 months they would go back to their school and hopefully will have gained hugely from the experience, benefiting the school in turn.”
She told heads that Ofsted wants the secondments to be “part of the development journey of talented school leaders who are on a trajectory to headship or beyond".
Ms Spielman added: “We are determined to be a force for improvement in education and we believe this scheme will help by widening our recruitment net and sharing our training.
"And, of course, we will benefit enormously from the direct experience that school leaders have. It really is an exciting time for people to join us.”
Mr Barton said there were potential benefits to the inspectorate and schools.
"It would enable Ofsted to benefit from the insight and expertise of people who are in the education engine room, planning, delivering and supporting the learning of young people," he said.
Middle leaders 'get professional development'
"It would also provide valuable career development for secondees, which could help to improve retention rates in the longer term.
"However, there would also be logistical hurdles to overcome in terms of how to cover the gaps in staffing which would result from secondments, particularly given that there are currently very significant teacher shortages.”
During her speech, Ms Spielman also defended Ofsted’s recent inspection report into Discovery Academy in Stoke-on-Trent, which was found to be off-rolling but was rated "good" overall by Ofsted.
She said: “For some people, that phrase 'off-rolling' is enough to damn the school and everyone in it. But the school was and is a good school. Teaching is good, outcomes are good, behaviour is good.
“The small number of off-rolled pupils were in good alternative provision, supported by the council and other local schools.
"We graded leadership and management as 'requires improvement', but the school as 'good' overall.
"We didn’t make ourselves popular with that decision, but ethical leadership is about difficult but right decisions, even when they are unpopular.”
Ofsted's chief inspector also outlined plans for the inspectorate to produce subject reviews from next year, which Ms Spielman said she hoped would start thoughtful debate informed by evidence.