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Heads are urged to report back on Ofsted inspectors

Heads are urged to report back on Ofsted inspectors

BBC |May 3, 2012

By Katherine Sellgren BBC News, at the NAHT conference in Harrogate

Head teachers are being urged to report back on Ofsted inspectors to ensure inspections are carried out constructively and impartially.

The National Association of Head Teachers said inspections were too “variable” and “subjective” and wants heads to record their experiences.

An NAHT survey of 2,158 heads suggests 90% do not like the tone of recent Ofsted announcements.

Ofsted said it strived to achieve consistency.

It added that everyone who inspects for Ofsted is highly trained and subjected its work to a rigorous quality assurance process.

But as the NAHT annual conference get under way in Harrogate, the association said out of about 2,150 responses, 98% felt judgements by England’s school inspections body were subject to political interference.

And some 69% of heads who answered a question about career plans said they felt discouraged by Ofsted announcements.

The new chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, upset some in the teaching profession by suggesting schools would face no-notice inspections from the autumn. Currently, schools get up to two days’ notice of an inspection.

The NAHT is setting up a scheme not dissimilar from Ofsted’s controversial Parent View, where parents are invited to give feedback on schools – heads are invited to report back via a survey on the NAHT website.

It says its School View initiative will enable heads to monitor the performance of Ofsted inspectors.

Heads will be asked to identify themselves – not for publication purposes, but to verify that the source is a bona fide head teacher.

“This is unlike Parent View which is based on anonymous data,”the association says.

‘Roll of the dice’

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said schools must be accountable for their work and problems addressed.

“But the quality of Ofsted inspections is far too variable, too subjective. Pupils, parents and teachers deserve better than a roll of the dice for the result.

“Frequent changes of the inspection framework mean that even the inspectors themselves struggle to keep up.

“There are fair-minded, expert inspectors out there, but we need far more. Ofsted wants a ‘no excuses’ culture – well, that applies to them too.

“NAHT’s School View will provide an independent audit of Ofsted performance by schools which have been inspected. It will go beyond anecdote and rumour to provide hard evidence.”

A spokesman for Ofsted said: “We very much welcome NAHT’s recognition of the importance of accountability and providing the opportunity for feedback.

“Last month we announced our drive to get head teachers more involved in the inspection process by calling on them to undertake a small number of inspections every year and the pilots with the National College will start next month.

“NAHT’s feedback will support our own post-inspection questionnaires with head teachers to ensure that the process works well for schools and Ofsted. More than nine out of 10 respondents consistently tell us inspection will help their school improve and that they are happy with the way their inspection was carried out.”

Mr Hobby is expected to set out proposals for a collaborative approach to raising school standards in his speech to delegates at the conference on Sunday.


Dear Mr Gove: Letter from a curious parent

Dear Mr Gove: Letter from a curious parent


An academy library

Most academies are performing well, but if they don’t, who will solve the problem? Photograph: Alamy

I know you’re proud of your policy of creating academies, but something happened on 23 April that pressed my panic button. You told the Commons education select committee that eight academyschools have been served with “pre-warning notices” because they are severely underperforming. I immediately thought, how come? Aren’t academies the solve-all, the system that will rid us of “underperforming”schools? For the record, let’s say it out loud: we now know that academies can and do fail. Perhaps, though, I should suspend my judgment, because the great advantage of the academy system is that the moment something goes wrong, the parents’ complaints will be heard and the secretary of state will be on to it?

Let’s look closer. First, we’re not allowed to know what or where these academies are. With local authority schools, we have accountability and transparency with online Ofsted reports, sometimes followed by local newspaper headlines and TV fly-on-the-wall documentaries, but with academies, we have the schools that dare not speak their name. And we have the academy accounts that dare not be made public.

Even so, should I have confidence that the matter is being handled competently? It doesn’t seem so. The education select committee chairman, Graham Stuart, tried to work out whose job it was to deal with what parents think about these underperforming academies. Was it the Young People’s Learning Agency – now closed – where parents with children in local authority schools used to go with their complaints, or perhaps the Education Funding Agency?

No one in the world, least of all you, seemed to know. When some parents (who are presumably under some kind of gagging order to not reveal where this is going on) called the YPLA, they were told this wasn’t in its remit. The Special Education Consortium seems to have approached the EFA to find out if this was in its remit. Nope. The EFA said that dealing with complaints about academies wasn’t its problem either. I’m sure you would agree that it’s a shame these parents can’t talk to the press about their frustrations in this matter.

The problem was: it was no one’s problem. Not the YPLA’s, not the EFA’s, not yours. It’s not good enough, is it? In fact, it’s a scandal. Can I make an observation? Over the last 20 years, your predecessors and you have been very keen to point the finger at what they say are “underperforming” schools. You have even taken action to force through a conversion job, turning a “failing” local authority school into a seemingly un-fail-able academy (not so un-fail-able, huh?). Yet when we look at your own process of governance, we find it’s underperforming. It’s not enabling parents’ complaints to be heard. That makes it not fit for purpose. What’s more, you didn’t know about it. You’re underperforming as well.

That to one side, should we be confident these academies will improve? All we hear from you is that if things don’t get better,“action” will be taken. What is this action? I read this week that you’re very keen to up the involvement of the Church of England in education. Perhaps you have a plan up your sleeve where clerics from areas where congregations have shrunk could be redeployed taking over failing academies?

While we’re on religion, can I ask you about the Bibles? I have a clear memory of you saying that you were going to put Bibles in every school. Did you buy the Bibles? If not, why not? Alternatively, if you did buy the Bibles, where are they? In a self-storage depot? I can see them now: thousands of brand-new Bibles jammed into steel boxes in Safestore just off the A1 near Biggleswade. Maybe they’re waiting for your team of CofE recruits. And how much is it all costing? I do hope it’s not another case of underperforming.

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