ASCL responds to new inspection plans

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on Ofsted’s new inspection plans from September 2019
Commenting on Ofsted’s new inspection plans from September 2019, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Ofsted’s new approach to school inspections is a step in the right direction, but it is not a panacea for all the problems with the inspection system and there is plenty more work to do in the future. In particular, it cannot be fair or sensible to continue with the blunt instrument of graded judgements which stigmatise schools with the greatest challenges, making it harder for them to recruit teachers and leaders and to secure sustainable improvement.

“In as far as it goes, however, this new inspection system has its heart in the right place with its move to focus more on what is most important – what our children are actually taught in school – and less on arcane school performance measures. The fact that this shift in thinking has received so much support in the consultation conducted by Ofsted reflects the feedback that ASCL has received from many school leaders.

“We are pleased that Ofsted has listened to our objections to its plan for inspectors to arrive in schools to begin on-site preparations the day before inspections start, and that it has now decided to drop this proposal. The reality is that once inspectors are on site, the inspection has started, and same-day notice inspections would have disrupted the normal running of schools.

“Ofsted has also changed its section on the English Baccalaureate for the better by making it clear that the idea of these subjects being taken up by 75% of pupils by 2022 is the government’s national ambition, not a target for any individual school, and that inspectors will not base judgements solely on progress towards this ambition. We would have preferred this section to have been removed in its entirety however.

“We are pleased that Ofsted has indicated that it will give schools time to make changes to the curriculum without being negatively judged. However, we are not convinced that its intention to review this transitional phase in the summer of 2020 is long enough to make and embed changes to the curriculum, and we think this period may need to be extended.

“We note that Ofsted has adapted its plans for inspections of small schools rated good. We agree that there should be a difference in scope between section 5 and section 8 inspections, but all inspections must be of the same high quality and all schools must have the same opportunity to showcase their provision. We look forward to speaking to Ofsted about how these adapted plans will ensure the quality and equity of inspection is maintained in small schools.”