Ofsted must focus less on test results and more on the quality of teaching when inspecting schools, MPs said this week.
In a report published by the Commons schools select committee yesterday, MPs called for the Government to focus on improving the quality of its inspectors after it was revealed that a school's rating was often decided before anyone had set foot in the building.
Speaking to The TES, committee chair Barry Sheerman said responses on the competencies of Ofsted inspectors were "very negative",with the report calling for a representative from the HM Inspectorate to lead every school visit.
"There are serious question marks over the quality of inspectors that Ofsted uses from its various contractors," he said. "We were told teachers could see the inspector reading the school's stats before walking through the door.
"They said inspectors' minds were often made up before they even entered the school. We were also told many stories of inspectors showing a complete lack of knowledge," Mr Sheerman added.
The report stated that the increase in Ofsted's remit had also led to the organisation becoming "unweildly and unco-ordinated", echoing current Conservative policy, which promises to cut back Ofsted's focus to just schools.
"There's no doubt that the Prime Minister wants to cluster these areas into one, but this has led to worries about whether they have the capacity and whether they have the overall professionalism to cover so many areas," Mr Sheerman said.
The committee also warned the Government over its plans to introduce a new school report card that gives a school a single grade.
Cards are included in the Children, Schools and Families Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, and Schools Secretary Ed Balls is hopeful that they will eventually replace league tables in providing information to parents about a school.
The report said: "We have been struck by the weight of evidence we have received which argues against an overall score on the school report card. It is true that Ofsted comes to an overall judgment on a four-point scale, but this judgment is meant to be the result of a very extensive analysis of a school's provision across the board, relying on quantitative and qualitative evidence and first-hand experience of the school at work.
"A school report card is not, and in our view never can be, a full account of a school's performance, yet the inclusion of an overall score suggests that it is."
An Ofsted spokesperson said: "Our new inspection framework, introduced in September 2009, allows inspectors to spend more time in classrooms observing teaching and pupils' learning and progress. Of course, test and examination results are important; and it would be wrong to ignore overall results, this is what parents and employers look for."
Bone to pick?
Schools which want to complain about inspection results or the behaviour of inspectors will have more opportunity to discuss issues directly with Ofsted, under new proposals out for consultation.
Schools will receive a phone call from Ofsted to talk through their complaints before they can take the matter further.
It is hoped that an initial phone conversation would "lead to a better understanding of the complaint", meaning only the most serious issues go through to the investigation stage.
Ofsted also plans to introduce a "moderation panel" of senior staff to review the outcomes of investigations into complaints about inspection results in a bid to make the process fairer.
To contribute to the consultation, visit www.ofsted.gov.ukOfsted- homeConsultations.
The closing date is January 13.