The British watchdog organization and school inspector Ofsted has recently come under fire by experts who are calling for its reform and the removal of questionable policies.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT union, has devised a plan for overhauling the school inspection system. He proposes abolishing the four-tiered ratings in favor of a simple “good” or “inadequate” grade, ending Ofsted’s role in school improvement, letting local authorities handle issues of child safety, and letting peer reviews dominate the inspection process.
Ofsted’s national director for schools, Sean Harford, recently made statements that line up with these proposals. At the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders, he said that the organization could move toward a peer-review system within the next decade, with Ofsted as a moderator rather than inspector. William Stewart of TESconnect quoted Hobby’s explanation of his own plan: “Ofsted becomes the hygiene inspector and peer review provides the restaurant critic.”
Harford’s statement was in response to ASCL’s plans for improvement:
If Ofsted is still around in 10 years’ time, the way we inspect and what we inspect would be very different in the type of school-led improvement system envisioned in the ASCL blueprint.
If that is the case for the future, I would see Ofsted’s role being to moderate judgments and assess the robustness of peer-review arrangements– making sure they weren’t just cozy fireside chats between colleagues.
I have very little doubt that during the five years of the next parliament we will continue to see our education sector evolve further down the path towards a fully self-improving system.
He also expressed support for the government’s controversial inspection requirement that schools must promote “British values:”
Our inspectors have had to go into schools serving predominantly Muslim communities in Birmingham and Tower Hamlets, Jewish schools in Hackney and Christian schools in the northeast and say some uncomfortable things about how these institutions were failing to prepare their pupils for life in modern Britain.
This has been a tough call. But it is absolutely essential … that we apply the same principles and inspect by the same standards in every school in every part of the country. Challenging intolerance– in all its forms– is the right thing for all schools to be doing.
He also stated that inspectors were being unfairly criticized, in response to the Education Select Committee calling into question how the Department of Education is handling its controversial “British values” regulations.
Last month, the Chief Inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, completely denied any wrongdoing in regard to the ‘Trojan Horse’ incident. According to Judith Burns of the BBC, a letter was leaked suggesting that Birmingham schools were being infiltrated by extremists with the goal of pushing radical Islam.
The report by the Education Select Committee reads:
There have been a number of reports of Ofsted inspectors coming into conflict with faith schools over inspections as a result of the changes to the inspection regime.
According to the Christian Institute, three Orthodox Jewish schools and a Roman Catholic school were accused by Ofsted of not guarding students against extremism and failing to “prepare students for life in modern Britain.”