Steve Munby, the Chief Executive of CFBT Education Trust, writing in the Daily Telegraph on 10 February, said that it is increasingly clear that Ofsted has become too open to political interference and that the judgements Ofsted makes are ‘contestable’. He pointed out that both the Labour government and the coalition Government have changed the Ofsted framework regularly (it has changed every year for the past three years), with the consequence that time and money has to be spent on inspectors and schools being trained and retrained accordingly.
Steve is surely correct in his view that Ofsted, which has played a vital role in holding schools to account, has now become too politicised
The autonomous ‘self-improving’ schools system allows politicians, by definition, less scope to influence what happens in schools, so inevitably they use Ofsted as a lever to exert what influence they can . The latest drive to ensure that schools promote British values is just the latest Whitehall driven initiative that has left school leaders bemused and fearful as they have no clear idea of what is expected of them
Crucially the inspection system must be seen to be fair, transparent and consistent by stakeholders’ .Arguably it is none of these.
There is more than anecdotal evidence that points to inspection teams being less objective than they should be. There are now grave doubts that snap inspections can fairly grade either the quality of teaching, or whether or not students are learning. There are long running concerns over the quality and accuracy of lesson observations , which can be unreliable and prone to the ‘cognitive biases’ of individual inspectors . David Didau’s argument that stand alone lessons don’t provide evidence of much except the performance of the teacher and the students at that particular moment , resonates across the profession.
Having first denied that its inspectors favoured a particular teaching style (ie progressive/Traditional) Ofsted then quickly issued additional guidance to inspectors, on this issue, which rather gave the game away. Ofsted’s latest cunning plan ,is to have two separate inspection teams going in quick succession to schools , with the second team double checking the first teams findings
There couldn’t be a clearer example of an organisation that has lost confidence in itself and its own judgements.
Ofsted will almost certainly face reform after the next election, whoever is in government. It is not about to disappear, nor should it, because school inspections are vital for any credible accountability framework.
Apart from moves to reform Ofsted it is likely that Sir Michael Wilshaw, an outstanding former Headteacher, but perhaps less sure footed at handling what has become a highly political job as Regulator , will almost certainly , and doubtless with some relief, move on to pastures new after the election.