Ofsted accused of ‘overtly political’ press statement

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Ofsted has been accused by universities of being “overtly political” and seeking “to justify government policy” on initial teacher training (ITT), following comments made by chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.

Ofsted has been accused by universities of being “overtly political” and seeking “to justify government policy” on initial teacher training (ITT), following comments made by chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.

The Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), which represents higher education institutions delivering ITT, is angry about a press release sent out by the inspection watchdog about the quality of teacher training.

It said the document was “misleading, inaccurate and inappropriately political”.

It has requested, under Freedom of Information legislation, details of all communication and correspondence exchanged and minutes of meetings held to discuss the press release, including those with ministers, and Department for Education officials and special advisors.

The release was about an analysis of 21 inspections carried out since last September, when a new framework was introduced for Initial Teacher Education (ITE). 

Ofsted found that “every one of the providers to have received the highest grade is a small school-led, employment-based partnership” which had recently been given school-centred initial teaching training status by the Teaching Agency. The training programmes offered are of the type favoured by education secretary Michael Gove for the future training of teachers.

It went on: “None of the higher education institutions – which have traditionally provided the majority of teacher training – inspected so far has been awarded an outstanding judgement for overall effectiveness. And no provider previously judged outstanding under the old framework has retained this top grade to date.”

Sir Michael said: “It is significant that all the outstanding training our inspectors have found so far is being led by consortia of neighbouring schools, with trainees taught by experienced, practising teachers.

“This suggests that the government is right to put greater emphasis on new teachers being trained in schools where they can best develop the practical skills they will need as teachers – rather than in higher education institutions, which have traditionally trained the majority of trainees.”

But in a letter to Sir Michael, James Noble-Rogers, UCET’s chief executive, said Ofsted had made “misleading comparisons between different types of ITT provider”, and that the number of inspections carried out so far was not representative. He said: “The content, language and timing of the press release were in our view overtly political in a way that is not appropriate for the office of chief inspector of schools.

“The Ofsted inspection regime is now open to the charge that, far from reporting candidly and with impunity on the state of provision, it is concerned to seek to justify government policy on ITT. There must now remain a suspicion that Ofsted ratings are a reflection of bias against university involvement in ITT.”

Mr Noble-Rogers added that the release had not acknowledged that UCET and universities had “worked tirelessly” with schools to implement government ITT reforms.

Ofsted did not comment despite being approached by SecEd.


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