Even the evaluation systems that schools use on their teachers will have to pass muster with the regulatory watchdog Ofsted, when the new inspection regime goes into effect this year in England. One of the first things to go will be the generous lead time for on-site inspections that the schools have previously received. According to Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools, the notice that an inspector is on the way will come merely a day before the scheduled visit and not up to several months before.
Another major change is the scrapping of the "Satisfactory" grade assigned to schools by evaluators. It will be replaced by the much more serious "Requires Improvement." The designation will place the school under increased Ofsted scrutiny and will force it to repeat the inspection within two years.
According to Ofsted, a third of primaries and secondaries are officially rated as not good enough.
In its latest annual report, the watchdog warned that teaching was "still too variable" in state schools, having a serious impact on pupils' results and fueling bad behaviour in the classroom.
Wilshaw, the chief inspector, said: "All schools and colleges can, and should, provide at least a good level of education. Parents and employers, children and learners, expect nothing less.
"That is why we are introducing these changes to the way we inspect. Inspectors will be clear about what needs to improve, and will return sooner to those that are not yet good to check their progress."
Although the new Ofsted program comes off like a stinging rebuke to teachers unions, in reality they did manage to win a concession on one issue. The draft proposal called for inspections to be made entirely without notice, and a compromise notification period was eventually worked out to allow head teacher to be told of the upcoming inspection on the afternoon before.
The inspectors will not only be looking at the soundness of the schools, but at the quality of the teaching staff. On the chopping block will be a substantial £5,300 raise given to teachers upon competition of a certain number of years on the job. Although the raise is nominally performance-linked, in reality it became more of a rubber stamp, and the Government derided it as "reward for time served."
The schools that fail to properly evaluate teachers scheduled for the pay bump could face penalties themselves, and have their overall assessment grade lowered. The problem of unearned raises not only costs the education system financially, it also serves as a disincentive to good teachers who see their under-performing colleagues reaping the same rewards without applying the extra effort.