Questions over Ofsted’s inspection of local authorities

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Questions have been raised over why Ofsted is inspecting the role of local authorities in promoting educational standards when so many schools are now operating independently as academies.

It comes as the inspectorate publishes its framework for the inspection of local authorities. It expects to begin its first visits next month.

The aim is to assess “how well local authorities carry out their statutory duties in promoting high standards in schools and among other providers so that children achieve well and fulfil their potential”.

However, inspection will not be universal and will only take place where “concerns about performances are apparent” or where education secretary Michael Gove has requested it. 

Local authorities have not been inspected in this way since 2005 and will receive five days’ notice of an inspection. The framework says that if a local authority is judged not to have “adequate capacity to support schools to improve” then they will be reported to the secretary of state.

Teachers’ unions are suspicious. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “This framework is being introduced at a time when the majority of schools have no direct link with the local authority and yet Ofsted appears to be aiming to hold local authorities to account for the performance of schools at a time when many of their powers and responsibilities have been stripped from them. 

“The introduction of this framework confirms what has been increasingly apparent over the last two years, that Ofsted is no longer an independent body operating in the public interest. It is now merely the secretary of state’s hit squad.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: “We are worried that if Ofsted uses strict, high pressure, one-size-fits-all inspections this will force local authorities to concentrate on what Ofsted inspects rather than on helping schools tackle their specific weaknesses.”

In his foreword to the new inspection framework, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said: “This framework acknowledges that the role of local authorities has changed in relation to schools and for those 14 to 19-year-olds attending a college where these sit outside of local authority control. However, local authorities still have an important statutory duty to promote high standards and fulfilment of potential.”


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