Ofsted chief hits back at critics

18th December 2009 at 00:00
Gilbert defends focus on raw exam data, pointing to `myths' surrounding new inspection regime

The chief schools inspector has mounted a fierce defence of Ofsted's controversial new regime, which she says has been misrepresented by a "catalogue of myths".

Writing in The TES today, Christine Gilbert answers critics who have decried her decision to place more emphasis on raw exam results when reaching overall judgments about schools.

"No employer is going to offer a young person a position if they haven't got decent qualifications, no matter how strong the contextual value added (CVA) score," she writes.

But her comments, which also defend the watchdog's greater emphasis on pupil safety, may only deepen the row raging over the new-style inspections.

Ms Gilbert appears to discourage schools from appealing against judgments which they believe are unfair.

"Of course, schools have the right to challenge an inspection judgment where they genuinely believe the inspectors have got it wrong," she writes.

"But it is often more productive to try to reflect on why the judgment has been made and what can be done to improve matters for the future."

The NUT has received hundreds of complaints from members about the new regime, which it does not feel have been adequately addressed, prompting Christine Blower, the union's general secretary, to meet Ms Gilbert yesterday.

"Schools which were judged good or better previously are now coming out as adequate or going into categories (special measures or notice to improve)," Ms Blower said.

Ms Gilbert accepts that this is happening in schools where results have actually improved, but counters: "Ofsted's inspections have never stood still, nor should they."

Stories about schools being failed because inspectors were offered coffee before their ID was checked or because of holes in fences were myths, the chief inspector said.

But Ms Gilbert has already admitted that schools could be penalised for having low door handles.

By November, at least six schools had been failed on pupil safety issues alone, and Ofsted has had to revise its guidance to inspectors on this area of the framework, admitting a lack of clarity about its interpretation.

She writes in The TES that she expects inspectors to exercise common sense.

But Ms Blower said: "It doesn't really matter how well she responds if it isn't materially reflected by what inspectors are doing in schools.

"We think the way the new framework is being implemented is not about helping and supporting and seems to be designed to catch schools out. This is too much stick and not enough carrot."

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