According to the Local Government Association, an umbrella group for 370 local authorities, Ofsted is struggling for credibility among parents and councils because of its erratic judgment and needs to be overhauled.
The LGA said it was “calling for an independent review of the schools watchdog’s operations, to understand what has gone wrong and to re-establish the credibility of an organisation which seems to have become media-driven, rather than focused on the experiences and outcomes of children and young people”.
David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said local authorities were having to spend millions of pounds following Ofsted’s recommendations, without assurance or confidence that they were doing the right thing. He said: “Ofsted sometimes seem to be responding more to publicity rather than providing consistent and objective judgments. Ofsted clearly has a lot of expertise, but I think there is a big question mark about whether the way the organisation is going at the moment is doing the business for the people it needs to do the business for. Sir Michael is the guy who is in charge of it, so he needs to take charge of that improvement.”
In response, Ofsted said in a statement that it had “raised the inspection bar” for both education and care services. The statement said: “Hundreds of thousands more children are now benefiting from a decent education because of the challenge and support we have given to previously underperforming schools. But we also know that when you challenge the system to do better, it will push back. Of course, Ofsted is not perfect and we have been open about where we need to improve our own performance.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, backed the LGA’s call for an independent review of Ofsted and said: “Inspection should be about expert judgment and quality feedback which leads to improvement, or the massive expenditure [on inspection] is wasted in what amount to a public relations exercise.”