Teachers told not to go alone to 'brutal' Ofsted checks

NEU teaching union tells teachers they cannot be held responsible for the curriculum quality across their school if they receive no extra time or pay as subject leaders

John Roberts

The National Education Union had advised its members not to go into meetings with Ofsted inspectors alone if they do not get given extra time for their work as subject leaders.

Teachers are being advised not to go into meetings with Ofsted inspectors alone in case they are unfairly held responsible for the quality of the curriculum in their subject across their school. 

The NEU teaching union has told Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman that teachers who do not receive extra time or pay for their work as subject leaders should not be held responsible for the quality of teaching across a school in that subject.

It has published new guidance today advising its members that if they do not get non-contact time or support for their work as a subject leader, then they should not attend meetings with Ofsted inspectors without a senior member of school staff present.

The NEU said that teachers in this position should also make clear to inspectors that they cannot be held responsible for the quality of the curriculum in a deep dive into their subject because their school has been unable to give them time or pay to carry out this responsibility.

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The union warned that the new Ofsted framework, which focuses on particular subjects to assess the curriculum as part of the school’s quality of education, has placed “unfair and unworkable” demands on teachers who work as subject leads – particularly in primary school.

The union’s joint general secretary Mary Bousted said: “With its new framework, Ofsted has completely failed to make good on its promises of a more constructive relationship between inspectorate and workforce. 

“The new inspection framework has clearly been designed with secondary school management structures and resources in mind. In primary schools, a teacher who takes on two or even three ‘subject leads’ can now be expected to be grilled by Ofsted inspectors in a manner that gives no consideration to their diverse and heavy workload, nor their employment status.

“This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding as to how primary schools function, and those same schools are often punished for the inspectorate’s ignorance.”

The union has said that small schools where there is nobody else who could take on responsibility to manage other teachers in their subject should write to Ofsted to say that the school “cannot implement a part of the quality of education judgement requirements” because it does not have the resources to provide staff with time and payment to do this work.

Its new guidance for teachers working as subject leaders without teaching and learning responsibility payments is that they should not be “responsible for standards in that subject, standards of teaching in that subject, feedback in that subject, sequencing of knowledge in that subject, consistency of teaching in that subject, or monitoring and evaluation of teaching and learning in that subject, across the school.”

The NEU has now written to Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman to highlight the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) statutory guidance which states that teachers cannot be expected “to take on the responsibility of, and accountability for, a subject area or to manage other teachers without appropriate additional payment.

"Responsibilities of this nature should be part of a post that is in the leadership group or linked to a post which attracts a TLR (teaching and learning responsibility payment)”.

The union said that, despite this guidance, teachers are being “grilled” by inspectors about the sequencing of subjects across the school.

 The letter to Ms Spielman says NEU members describe the new inspections as “brutal”.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “The NEU is misrepresenting or misunderstanding our approach to inspecting the curriculum.

"We are not looking to hold individuals to account, nor do we expect any particular staffing structure. We do not grade subject departments, lessons or individuals.

“We want to understand how the school as a whole develops and implements its curriculum, so that all children enjoy a rich, ambitious and rewarding education.

“Our inspectors are happy to have conversations with any relevant staff members or groups of staff, including in small schools where headteachers rightly will want to support their staff in discussions so inspectors can understand the school’s approach.”


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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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