Teachers can judge Ofsted plans

9th May 2008 at 01:00
But they won't be consulted yet on measures of wellbeing, teenage pregnancy rates and obesity
But they won't be consulted yet on measures of wellbeing, teenage pregnancy rates and obesity

Teachers will be given a say about new plans for school inspections within a fortnight, but are not expected to be consulted yet on measures to gauge pupils' wellbeing.

Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector, has already given a strong indication of the most significant alterations that teachers can expect from next September.

They may include replacing the 48-hour notice which schools get with no-notice inspections. High-performing schools are expected to get inspections once every six years, while weaker schools could face annual check-ups.

However, the consultation is not expected to include proposals to measure pupil wellbeing, because those proposals are still in the early stages of development.

The Government announced last year that it would be recommending that Ofsted reflected new "school level" indicators, including bullying and obesity.

A leaked document suggests that there are 18 indicators in total, which also include rates of teenage pregnancies and drug use.

Surveys of pupils and parents may be carried out to help provide informed assessments.

Teachers' leaders who attended a private meeting where the document was discussed said it was an early draft to provoke debate, and the changes were far from a fait accompli. But they warned it could lead to schools being held to account for wider problems in society.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "We have to guard against data going in to the Ofsted framework that would place ludicrous burdens on schools on issues over which they have no control."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that schools had a contribution to make to children's wellbeing, and it was right for local authorities to work together to tackle problems such as obesity and teenage pregnancy.

However, he said individual schools should not be held accountable for these problems.

The wellbeing document was discussed at a meeting of the New Relationship with Schools, a group including teaching unions, headteachers and officials from Ofsted and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).

Others at the meeting claim the indicators' significance had been exaggerated. One, who did not want to be named, said the document made it clear that individual schools could only have an impact in certain areas.

"The focus appears to be shifting away from just academic standards to a broader and more holistic view of children's development," he said.

"But I think it would be wrong to assume that data will be used to make judgements on schools in order to give them lower grades."

Another source said that published data would most likely be used to compare schools in similar areas, not an inner-city comprehensive with a rural grammar school.

"Schools cannot be held completely responsible for teen pregnancies," he said. "But they can't abdicate their partial responsibility for pupils in these areas. It would seem reasonable for a parent to want to see how one school was doing on pupil wellbeing compared to another."

It is understood that ministers and officials at the DCSF were "hopping mad" at the wellbeing document being leaked.

Beverley Hughes, children's minister, told delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers' conference this week that they should not be worried about the wellbeing duty that was being discussed.

"Don't be afraid of it," she said. "It will be something that speaks to the work that schools are doing, rather than another set of targets for schools to achieve."

Ms Hughes denied that the Government would be producing a school league table based on how many pupils were overweight, but said that schools did have a role to play in tackling obesity.

Consultations will begin on May 19 at www.ofsted.gov.uk


Schools have had a legal duty to promote pupil wellbeing since 2005. But more detailed plans to gauge it were first announced late last year in the Children's Plan, the Government's 10-year strategy for improving children's lives. In the plan, ministers called for schools to be "measured and rewarded" for their contribution to children's wellbeing, as well as their academic achievements.

"Strong school level indicators" are needed, which would include bullying, obesity and entrance to the youth justice system, the Children's Plan said. "We will ask Ofsted to reflect these indicators in designing the cycle of inspections starting in 2009," it added. The plan also promised that schools would be issued with detailed guidance on pupil wellbeing in early 2008, although this has yet to materialise.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today