Headteachers among the country have strongly criticised the policy of ensuring all schools are inspected by the summer of 2025. Ofcom’s plan to accelerate inspections have been condemned by teaching unions, which have highlighted the extraordinary pressure schools are currently still under due to Covid.
Headteachers have reacted with fury and disbelief to government plans, who have ignored widespread calls from the sector to suspend all routine inspections in view of the continuing Covid disruption among schools in England.
Ofsted, the schools inspectorate revealed on Tuesday that it had been given an additional £24m in the government’s spending review to speed up the rate of inspections, to ensure that all schools and further education providers are inspected in the next four years.
The education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, said he pandemic had provided an opportunity to build back better and fairer, adding: “Accelerating the rate of Ofsted inspections over the coming years will provide parents with an up-to-date picture and swifter recognition of the hard work of leaders and teachers.”
Teaching unions however, are united in their condemnation of this move, which promised to have all schools to be inspected at least once by summer 2025. There is also a growing concern over a new drive to inspect ‘Outstanding schools’, which were previously exempt from regular inspection. Reports suggest that more than two in three have been stripped of their top rating after inspections in September, causing anguish among those heads affected.
Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union stated, “Government ministers are showing, yet again, that they have no understanding of the exhaustion and stress felt by teachers and leaders.” This has since been echoed by Nich Brook, the deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers adding: “Given the pressure schools are currently under and the recent calls to pause inspections this term, the announcement of more to come feels completely tone-deaf.”
However, Ofsted’s chef inspector Amanda Spielman explains the rationale behind the decision,
“Children only get one chance at school. Everyone working in education must do everything they can to give this generation to best possible chance to fulfil its potential. Ofsted will play its part – by giving parents and learners up-to-date information, and by helping schools and colleges shape their plans. I’m pleased that we will now be able to reach all schools, colleges and apprenticeship providers by summer 2025.”
Critics said the schools inspectorate was facing an unprecedented crisis of confidence among education experts, professional bodies and school leaders, who have accused Ofsted of ‘losing the plot’ and being ‘completely out of touch’ with reality. School leaders believe it is wrong for Ofsted to be conducting routine inspections when schools are still struggling with high rates of absence among students and staff and the focus is on helping children to catch-up after months of disrupted learning.
Others have gone a step further and called for the current ‘humiliating’ grading system – which measures and classifies schools from outstanding to inadequate to be scrapped as a priority, amongst them was Caroline Derbyshire, who chairs the Headteachers’ Roundtable. She said, “Perhaps now there’s a feeling we’ve been putting up with things for too long. To accept a system which is so publicly humiliating is wrong, the shaming is something we should never as a profession have put up with.” The teaching unions and headteachers criticisms is likely to fall on deaf ears as the government and Ofsted continue to push on with the accelerating plan for inspections.