This week Ofsted announced that 40 no-warning inspections would take place this month as part of a trial wave of two-day unannounced inspections across England. The trial is intended to address the feasibility of unannounced inspections proposed following the Trojan Horse inquiries in Birmingham schools. The decision follows concerns that some of the schools involved in the inquiry had been able to conceal unacceptable behaviour as they knew when Ofsted inspectors would be visiting to inspect.
However, the proposals have received criticism from teachers and organisations. Brian Lightman, the head of the Association of School and College Leaders, recognised that there may be a need for unannounced inspections in certain circumstances but said “moving to no notice for routine inspections is unnecessary and would be counter-productive. It stilts creativity and treats professionals like naughty children. Schools currently only receive half a day’s notice. This is the absolute minimum time needed so that key staff and governors are available to meet with inspectors and staff can gather facts and figures that inspectors need during their visit.”
The National Union of Teachers has also spoken out against unannounced inspections with the unions general secretary, Christine Blower, stating “For accountability to be meaningful, there needs to be proper professional and respectful dialogue. The government should look to learn from the light touch accountability systems of high-performing countries such as Finland and New Zealand which are based on trusting schools and teachers to do the best by their students, rather than the issuing of threats or penalties.”
The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw announced the wave of unannounced inspections and stated “I’m currently giving thought to whether Ofsted should move to more routine, no-notice inspections as part of our wider education inspection reforms we will be consulting on later this year. In the meantime, under our regional structure, inspectors are well placed to use their local knowledge and contacts to identify where these sorts of problems may be taking hold so we can respond swiftly and report publicly on what we find.”