The inspector: Ofsted is very important – but not its culture of hitting targets at any charge


A college leader recently requested me: “Do folks in Ofsted not realize the pressures schools are beneath?” Coming soon after an tutorial yr when Ofsted built minor allowance for the impression of Covid in colleges, the remaining straw for lots of was Ofsted continuing to examine universities previous 12 months in the final 7 days of phrase regardless of forecasts of an severe heatwave.

The university leader’s problem was a cri de coeur probable to be echoed by headteachers throughout England. I responded that his majesty’s inspectors (HMIs) all have faculty encounter and do comprehend the pressures. It is Ofsted’s main inspector, Amanda Spielman, and her advisers who do not, specified their absence of training expertise coupled with a tradition of assembly targets at all prices.

Ofsted is incredibly highly effective in the state faculties attended by most small children. About 85% of universities are graded as at the very least “good”. For all those universities, Ofsted could be an unwanted stress. The trouble is that with out inspection, it is unachievable to know whether or not a faculty is superior or not.

A couple of several years in the past I led an inspection of a secondary school that was previously graded as demanding improvement. The school’s success had enhanced, and pupils appeared to be finding a fantastic offer. It was only on the next day of the two-day inspection that we uncovered proof suggesting a a lot less favourable photo: a important quantity of 12 months 11 pupils had been getting taken off the school’s roll with nowhere else to go. This made the school’s GCSE outcomes appear better, and enhanced its climate for mastering. But there ended up absolutely inadequate checks on regardless of whether the pupils taken off he roll were being risk-free, or even alive. So an anticipated “good” quality alternatively turned “inadequate”.

Quite a few folks feel underneath the misconception that Ofsted inspections must replicate test performance. Even though I have criticisms of Ofsted’s policing of what is taught, I can see sense in the main inspector’s watch that we have two faculty accountability measures. One particular measure is test outcomes, when the other is Ofsted inspections. Owning the next replicating the initially would be pointless.

The stability involving benefits and how they are arrived at has altered considerably. It is a lack of being familiar with of this, in relation to top quality of education judgement, that provokes allegations of Ofsted “hit squads” downgrading educational institutions. Whilst top quality of instruction is the limiting judgment in evaluating a school’s usefulness, Ofsted also makes significant judgments in other locations in which expectations have greater in the latest many years, chiefly pupil safeguarding.

Educational facilities are not normally failed on safeguarding for slight technicalities. Pretty often, I have visited colleges where techniques had been chaotic and I could not be confident all staff experienced criminal history checks, or that internal systems have been rigorous adequate to monitor problems about personal pupils.

Does Ofsted do enough to ensure inspectors normally act professionally? No. Is Ofsted’s aim on a narrow assortment of subjects and a shallow interpretation of cognitive science valuable? Definitely not. But most importantly, is inspection a critical champion for dad and mom and primarily children? Indeed. That is why, inspite of my criticisms of Ofsted, I however imagine in inspection.

Adrian Lyons was an Ofsted HMI from 2005 to 2021, and is now a consultant supporting schools, academy trusts and instructor teaching suppliers.



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