UK Government Cuts Contract Ties on School Inspections

The British government has announced that it will begin conducting its own inspections of schools rather than contracting them out to private companies starting in 2015 according to an article written by Graeme Paton of the Daily Telegraph.The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) will conduct all inspections “in-house”. Ofsted reports directly to Parliament and is independent and impartial. Ofsted inspects and regulates services which care for children and young people, and those providing education and skills for learners of all ages.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said:

 “Bringing the management of inspection teams in-house is to be welcomed: the variability of delivery is one of the profession’s biggest concerns. Ofsted needs to be sure that its own internal quality assurance is up to spec … It is inspecting too many things too frequently for us to be entirely confident about quality.”

Sean Coughlan, correspondent with the BBC, reports that leaders of the headteachers’ union are behind the change and see it as a way to improve the consistency of the inspections.

The change has taken place because of claims that too many of the third-party company inspectors lacked the necessary skills and experience needed to make fair assessments about the field of education.

At the first of this year think-tank Policy Exchange warned that some schools had begun to water down their educational services to a point that Olfsted would be able to understand. It has been said that the inspectors have not followed the appropriate guidelines on inspecting grading lessons and teaching styles.

Olfsted is not renewing contracts with any of the three contractors it has employed since 2009. Those contracts end in August 2015.

Nick Jackson, Ofsted’s director of corporate services, said, “With the conclusion of these contracts, the time was right to look again at how Ofsted can best deliver a service that is both efficient and flexible. We are confident that this is the right model.”

Leaders in the field of education believe that “serving or recently retired school leaders, who work for Olfsted should be used to man a skilled, knowledgeable, and respected inspection team”.

Richard Adams, education editor for The Guardian, reports that the change will only affect schools and further education colleges, not early years’ educators.  They will still be in the hands of contract inspectors.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said the decision was disappointing.

“We have heard far too many reports of providers being visited by inspectors who possess little understanding of early years provision – and in some cases being unfairly graded as a result,” he said.

“If outsourced inspections aren’t good enough for schools and further education institutions, then they aren’t good enough for early years providers. As such, we would urge Ofsted to reconsider its decision.”

06 3, 2014
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