New rules came into force this week which have increased the powers of the UK’s Ofsted — the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills — and toughened up the regime to a point that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, calls ‘zero tolerance’.
Julie Henry of the Telegraph writes that head teachers will now receive less than 24 hours’ notice of an Ofsted inspection and that those inspections will be far more rigorous, including checking payroll to ensure that weak teachers aren’t receiving performance bonuses. Ofsted inspection teams will also be observing more classrooms than in the past and listening to more primary pupils prove reading competence in hopes that it will stem the tide of children who arrive at secondary school unable to read.
Alongside the new Ofsted regime, new rules to expedite the sacking of substandard teachers are also coming into effect. New ‘capability’ procedures mean dismissal can now take as little as a term rather than a full school year for heads and governors to remove the worst performing staff.
Mr Gove said poor teachers would no longer be tolerated:
“We’ve got a great generation of young teachers but every hour a child spends with a bad teacher blights their future,”
The ‘satisfactory’ rating for school has been changed to ‘mediocre’ and schools judged to be below ‘good’ standard will no longer be able to coast, instead being ordered to improve and face reinspection within two years.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, said:
“From this week, school inspections will further challenge schools to ensure a good education is provided for all our children.
“I make no apology for introducing an inspection framework that raises expectations and focuses on the importance of teaching. The new short-notice inspections allow inspectors to see schools as they really are.
“I believe all children, regardless of where they live or what their parents can afford for them, have the right to a good education and that belief is at the heart of our work at Ofsted.”
The new regime also means that Ofsted and the government are looking to enforce the idea of merit pay for teachers. The inspectors will be looking for a strong link between performance and salary, actively checking that weak teachers are low on the overall salary scale. This comes after earlier warnings from Sir Michael that unsatisfactory teachers should be subject to a pay freeze to ensure that they didn’t earn as much as more capable colleagues.
Unsurprisingly the teachers unions are unhappy with the changes. Kevin Courtney, deputy secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said:
“No other profession would accept this level of scrutiny and mistrust.
“As professionals, teachers should obviously be accountable but new proposals on appraisal and capability procedures alongside new rules on teacher observation have little to do with raising standards.
“They will simply de-motivate teachers and risk them leaving the profession.”