Exclusive - Inspections face global criticism

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
International study will attack England's Ofsted and league tables regime, but praises heads

International study will attack England's Ofsted and league tables regime, but praises heads

Teachers who have criticised England's school inspections and league tables will be vindicated by a major international report that says the regime has a negative impact on staff and pupils.

A draft version of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report on school leadership, seen by The TES, says Ofsted inspections create "additional work and considerable strain" on heads and other staff, and can "turn the school upside down".

The report comes as Ofsted prepares to put still more weight on exam results and inspect weak schools more often. The watchdog this week proposed stopping schools from being given ratings of satisfactory or above unless they met minimum benchmarks for pupils' raw test scores.

But the OECD warns that negative perceptions created by a bad Ofsted report or bad exam league table ranking can send a school into a "vicious" downward spiral.

The report looks at school leadership in 22 of the 30 developed nations that make up the OECD.

It notes concerns about England's "name and shame policy" of publishing Ofsted reports, and says league tables favour the most socially advantaged schools.

The report criticises the sheer number of government initiatives - which schools are expected to implement at speed - as counterproductive. It also says ministers should rely less on Ofsted reports and more on schools' self-evaluation and carefully refined external evaluation measures. But the report praised the "systemic leadership" of England's headteachers.

Heads said the findings were an overdue recognition of the impact of inspections and league tables.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said Ofsted ran a "fault-finding and negative system" that put heads on the back foot.

The NAHT will decide its official response next week to Ofsted's proposals, which include introducing no-notice inspections. The association would not rule out advising heads to refuse to co-operate with surprise visits.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said the criticisms were based on inspections in 2005, and that they had since changed. "Inspections are a maximum of two days, and 94 per cent of heads responding to surveys have told us the demands placed on them during the inspection were reasonable," she said.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families defended the publication of exam results and Ofsted reports.

"It is right that parents have the information available to them as just one factor in deciding which school is right for their child, and right that pupils are able to measure themselves against a national standard," a spokesman said.

Inspections, pages 6-7

OECD report, pages 24-25.

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