WATCH: What do heads want from any Ofsted replacement?

Union leader welcomes Labour plans to change to school inspection and accountability – but says the way in which schools are inspected is more important than the 'name on the door'

Paul Whiteman

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner’s announcement that the Labour Party would abolish Ofsted has been widely welcomed at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

However, union leaders have warned that there needs to be an effective replacement.

Ms Rayner told the conference that an end to Ofsted would mean schools would “no longer be subjected to a one-word grade”.


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She said there would be “a new system of peer review” which would “deliver school improvement led by the experts in our schools who can achieve more working together for the common good”.

She also said there would be a "a new independent body” which would “ensure that every provider from nursery to colleges delivers the education that will be the right of every citizen”.

But Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, told Tes there was a lack of clarity over what would replace Ofsted.

He said: “We don’t completely understand the detail of what will replace Ofsted right now.

“Whatever inspectorate you’ve got, it has got to be properly resourced and supported to do what has been described in terms of those light-touch inspections, and then the deeper supportive diagnostics.

“So whatever the structure looks like it needs to do those things, and make sure that we truly do stay away from the high-stakes accountability that is currently there at the moment, that skews the focus of schools, frankly.”

The NAHT produced an accountability commission report last year which warned that league tables, targets and inspections were hindering school improvement.

Mr Whiteman added: “We didn't go as far as to call for the abolition of Ofsted...We don’t think the name above the door of the inspectorate matters as much as what the inspectorate does, but we’re really pleased to see that Labour has taken on much of what our accountability commission said.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said previously that the union welcomed Labour's recognition that inspections needed “further reform” but said a plan to replace Ofsted with a two-phase system led by local authorities was “a complicated answer”.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said there needed to be “an accountability and quality-assurance system that gives credit to schools that do right by their workforce”.

She said: “Equally, this system must expose, challenge and intervene robustly in cases where schools cannot, or will not, meet the legitimate expectations of teachers and leaders about their working conditions and the ways in which they are treated by those in their schools with power over them.”

Writing for Tes, joint-general secretary of the NEU teaching union Mary Bousted said teachers "should be confident", under the proposals, that their work would be judged by inspectors who are specialists, and that whole-school inspections would take place "according to need rather than on a set timetable and will rarely be across a whole school". 

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