Teaching unions unite in condemnation of Ofsted


Ofsted was a hot topic of conversation at all three teacher union conferences this year, as teachers condemned the workload and stress they say inspection causes. A range of solutions, from industrial action to an Inspection Charter, were put forward. Pet


Inspection Charter urged

Teachers have called for an Inspection Charter to be introduced to give schools and their staff a number of guarantees when they are visited by Ofsted.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is to campaign for the Charter after a motion was unanimously approved by delegates at its annual conference in Manchester. 

It came as general secretary Dr Mary Bousted delivered a withering attack on the inspectorate, claiming it was incapable of sorting out its own problems. She referenced last month’s Policy Exchange report, which questioned the reliability of Ofsted’s approach to lesson observations and raised concerns about the 3,000 outsourced inspectors, many of whom it said were unaccountable and lacked key data analysis skills.

Dr Bousted said: “Frankly, the game is up for Ofsted. It is a busted flush. Ofsted can no longer claim that its inspection reports are worth the paper they are written on. We know that, frankly, it’s a lottery which depends on which Ofsted inspection team turns up – one that has a clue, or one that is clueless.”

She argued the pressure that the Ofsted process places on school leaders has led many of them to adopt “dictatorial” approaches.

She explained: “School leaders, whose jobs are as secure as their Ofsted category, too often resort to dictatorial ways, telling teachers what to do, insisting on ridiculous bureaucracies around lesson-planning and assessment frameworks, which take teachers’ time and attention from a deep focus on teaching and learning.”

She continued: “Just how much of the unsustainable rise in teacher workload, which has resulted in teachers working an average of 60 hours a week, can be laid at Ofsted’s door? Just how many pointless hoops have teachers and school leaders had to jump through so that, when the inspector calls, all would be ready? And how much higher would standards of education be if teachers and school leaders had not been so distracted by the fear and terror that Ofsted brings, and had been able to concentrate their professional energies and focus on what is right for their pupils?”

If achieved, ATL’s Charter would guarantee that all inspection teams are independent of “sectional interests” and include a “majority of experienced and currently serving teachers and school leaders”.

In a reference to Ofsted’s ParentView website, which allows parents to comment anonymously on their children’s school, the Charter would see a limit to the weight that inspectors can give to “isolated complaints or opinions”.

Delegates also agreed that Ofsted’s inspection judgements should be subject to a “national programme of reliability sampling”.

Moving the motion, headteacher Robin Bevan said: “Any inspection system should not depend on the composition of the team that arrives to inspect a school or college.”

He added: “Anybody, pupils, staff, former pupils, Joe and Joanna Public can register (on ParentView) and express a view on any school anywhere in the country and, with a little technical skill, can do this as many times as they like.”

Inspect the Inspectors, teachers told

Teachers have launched an online “Inspect the Inspectors” service in a bid to turn the tables on an increasingly under fire Ofsted.

The NASUWT’s online tool will allow teachers and school leaders to “critique how inspection was carried out in their school, how the inspection team behaved and whether they met all of the provisions of the inspection code of conduct”.

Any teacher selected for observation will also be allowed to log on and “rate the inspectors”. 

The union, which launched the tool at its annual conference in Birmingham, said it plans to use the information it collates to produce reports. It said: “The information will be analysed to identify where there are recurring problems with particular inspection teams or lead inspectors, to assess the consistency of judgements made, and to check whether the inspectors are conforming to Ofsted’s own advice.”

It is also developing similar tools for Estyn in Wales and ETI inspections in Northern Ireland.

The new tool came as delegates at the conference backed a motion claiming that Ofsted was no longer “fit for purpose” and challenging its “questionable and politically driven judgements” about schools.

Birmingham teacher Claire Colling, who moved the motion, accused Ofsted of operating a “hit and run approach” with ”limited accountability for its actions”.

NASUWT’s general secretary Chris Keates said: “The online tool is a major step in the strong resistance which now needs to be mounted against punitive accountability. It will empower teachers and school leaders to take back some professional control.

“The accountability system must be fit for purpose and secure public trust and confidence. Ofsted meets none of those criteria and disappointingly inspection systems in other parts of the UK are emulating this flawed model.

“One of (Ofsted’s) worst features is the climate of fear it has created across all schools, disempowering teachers and school leaders and forcing practices which meet the needs of Ofsted, rather than the needs of young people.”

Union to investigate Ofsted trade dispute possibility

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is to investigate procedures for taking industrial action over the workload and stress caused by Ofsted inspection.

A motion at the union’s annual conference in Brighton labelled the inspection regime in England as “flawed”, claiming that Ofsted criteria are being used to bully teachers rather than improve standards.

It also attacked Ofsted’s use of lesson observations, which it argues are based on “narrow-minded criteria” which lead to “increased workload, undue stress and illness”.

The union’s members also said that many Ofsted inspectors had not taught for a sustained period for “decades” and expressed concerns about the role of outsourcing inspection to private organisations.

The motion added: “The outsourcing of Ofsted inspections to private organisations has the potential to create a fundamental clash of interests with, for example, inspectors with relationships with an academy chain inspecting schools that could subsequently be taken over by that chain.”

The motion called for an independent review to examine the current systems of accountability, including the way examination results are used to judge schools.

Delegates also called for the NUT to establish a database of inspection experiences, outcomes and lead inspectors which would help the union to identify “recurring patterns”.

The motion also instructed the union’s executive committee to “investigate procedures for declaring and acting on a trade dispute over the workload and stress implications of Ofsted”.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “The purpose of a school evaluation system should be to enable schools to ‘know themselves’ honestly in order to support their development and effectiveness. 

“The current inspection system creates precisely the opposite set of conditions. Openness and confidence about owning the processes of school evaluation have been replaced by the need to put on a performance for the inspectors.

“Snapshot 20-minute inspections by inspectors who often do not have relevant qualifications or recent teaching experience cannot be giving a true reflection of the work of schools or individual teachers.

“It is high time this process which drives many good teachers and headteachers out of the profession ends. 

“While teachers understand the need for accountability, effective school inspection needs an approach which trusts and supports the profession and doesn’t denigrate it.”

CAPTION: Ofsted outrage: Delegates vote during the NASUWT annual conference in Birmingham



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