Driven to despair by Ofsted inspections

Headteacher Rachel Hornsey deplores the shifting goalposts of school inspections. Plus letters from Dr Chris PyleYvonne Williams and Prof Nick Megoran

Ofsted is forcing talented leaders and their teams into chronic stress (‘I can’t go through it again’: heads quit over ‘brutal’ Ofsted inspections, 27 November). As a headteacher, my vision must be maintained amid shifting goalposts. Prior to 2019, a school’s raw attainment data was enough to make or break an inspection grade. Since the new framework, it is whether your planned curriculum matches exactly what is in the books that is the deciding factor. And there has been a pandemic in between.

Meanwhile, a crisis in children’s services adds more responsibilities. Due to a 60% increase in referrals to the Oxfordshire multi-agency safeguarding hub and its lack of resources, work with vulnerable families has now fallen to schools. There are 25 full-time vacancies for health visitors in Oxfordshire. Since the pandemic, there have been no child development checks at year 1 and year 3 in our area. Children are arriving at school with a multitude of problems, and we are the first professionals to identify these.

Read more in the Guardian

‘I can’t go through it again’: heads quit over ‘brutal’ Ofsted inspections

Headteachers say inspectors are ignoring or dismissing the harsh realities of Covid in schools

After more than two decades at inner-city secondary schools, Helen Roberts*, a headteacher, resigned from the job she loves earlier this month. It was not the intense pressure of the pandemic that tipped her over the edge – though that has been tough – but an Ofsted inspection.

“Our inspector was intimidating, raising his voice and making accusations. There was not one apology each time I proved his accusation unfounded. He just swiftly switched to another accusation, then another,” she says. The inspection also unnerved some students. “They felt they were being interrogated and pressured to give negative feedback.”

Roberts says her deputy went home after being given “a pounding” by the inspector – and has yet to return. Another “outstanding” teacher, who was “loved and respected by colleagues and pupils”, resigned last week, saying she never wanted to experience an Ofsted inspection again. Roberts feels the same way.

Since the pandemic, attendance at her school has been poor and there has been a 40% increase in referrals to social care. Roberts says criminal child exploitation, mental health problems, children going missing and substance misuse problems have all “exploded”. Staff absences have rocketed because of Covid and few supply teachers are available. Some staff are on long-term leave and those who are still working say they are exhausted.

Read more in the Guardian

Ofsted reform is needed now to rebuild trust in inspections

Our letter stops short of calling for Ofsted to be scrapped, writes Colin Richards, but reform is required now to make the inspectorate fit for purpose.

As a former HMI, I have gladly added my signature to the Positive Ofsted Reform open letter addressed this week to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman.  

Ofsted has grown in power and influence since its creation 30 years ago. Initial reactions mostly involved suspicion. But that soon grew into anxiety. Later, outright fear. Today, it’s rare to find a school leader without a personal anecdote to tell of emotional turmoil when thinking about an Ofsted visit.

Ofsted now stands in need of fundamental reform, and I support every effort to get its leaders to listen to concerns from educationalists and teachers on the ground.

Last week, Ofsted’s national director for education claimed that a return to routine inspections after the Covid-19 pandemic was “the best way for Ofsted to support the [education] sector”. Almost simultaneously, the government committed an extra £24 million to support an acceleration of  inspections – and this at a time when schools are having to cope with ongoing Covid-related disruption and the long-term effects of closures.

Read more of ex-HMI Colin Richards’ article here on Schools Week

Large online educators face £10k bill for Ofsted accreditation visits

The watchdog has warned the online education sector is currently ‘completely unregulated’

Ofsted will charge large online education providers a £10,000 visit fee under a new accreditation scheme set to launch next year.

The watchdog has today released a consultation on how it should fulfil its role as the quality assurance body for the Department for Education’s online education accreditation scheme.

It has also released a draft handbook setting out its proposed approach, which includes assessing providers’ cybersecurity arrangements, methods of delivery and suitability checks of proprietors.

Read more in Schools Week

Former catch-up tsar questions Ofsted inspection timing

Sir Kevan Collins raises concerns about impact of Ofsted inspections as government seeks to accelerate school watchdog visits

The former Covid recovery tsar who resigned this year over the government’s “half-hearted” education catch-up plans has questioned if now is the “right time” for Ofsted inspections that “frighten” heads to be taking place.

Sir Kevan Collins’ comments come after the government revealed this week that it has handed over £23 million to Ofsted to speed up inspections to assess schools’ Covid recovery progress.

He said: “I am not sure this is the right time to do the kind of inspection we are doing. I do think inspection has a place within our system but there is something wrong in that people are frightened of it, there is something incorrect in that.”

Read more in tes

Spielman grilled by heads over Ofsted’s return

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman defends Ofsted inspections during pandemic amid criticism at Schools and Academies Show

Amanda Spielman faced tough questioning from school leaders today as she defended Ofsted’s return to routine inspections during the Covid pandemic.

The chief inspector fielded a series of questions about the impact of the coronavirus and the challenges facing schools from the audience at the Schools and Academies Show in Birmingham.

Delegates loudly applauded Matthew Chancellor, deputy head at St Bede’s Inter-Church School in Cambridgeshire, after he told Ms Spielman that he “profoundly disagrees” that now is the right time to roll out inspections.

The government resumed Ofsted’s routine programme of graded inspections in September but it has faced accusations that it is not doing enough to take the impact of Covid into account.

Read more in tes

Ofsted: Inspections ‘fair’ despite Covid ‘pressure’

Exclusive: Ofsted insists the best way for it to support the sector is to carry on with routine inspections of schools

Ofsted has said it is aware of the extra pressure on teachers and leaders in the Covid pandemic but has claimed the best way for it to support schools is to carry on inspecting them.

The watchdog has responded to calls to put graded inspections on hold during the coronavirus crisis amid concerns that they are “toxic” to the wellbeing of headteachers.

The support service Headrest wrote to Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman and education secretary Nadhim Zahawi calling for routine graded inspections to be paused.

Read more in TES, reported by John Roberts

Headteachers resist Ofsted plan to reinspect ‘outstanding’ schools

Hundreds of schools across England have not been examined by the inspectorate for more than a decade.

Headteachers are resisting Ofsted plans to relaunch inspections of “outstanding” schools that have not been assessed for more than a decade.

Hundreds of schools across England have not been examined by the inspectorate for more than a decade as those rated outstanding have been exempt from reinspection since 2011.

But in September, Ofsted started a fresh wave of inspections in the highly rated schools – some of the most sought after in the country – with new inspection criteria. The changes are expected to see thousands of high-rated schools lose their “outstanding” status.

The inspections have prompted concern from teaching unions, including the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) which wrote to Ofsted last week asking for the inspections to be paused as many schools are still struggling to get back on their feet after the Covid pandemic.

Read more in The Telegraph By Izzy Lyons

Half of Ofsted’s ‘outstanding’ schools face downgrade in new inspection regime

The most highly rated secondaries are having their first Ofsted check for a decade. Many will not escape unscathed.

Hundreds of England’s most sought-after schools will be stripped of their “outstanding” rating as ministers push for a rise in standards to compensate for the months of learning lost to the pandemic.

Amanda Spielman, head of the watchdog Ofsted, said her team had begun a programme of inspections at schools with the highest grade.

She expects the number of England’s “outstanding” schools to fall from 4,133, about one in five, to roughly 2,000, about the same as in 2010.

“We are neither giving schools a free pass nor being unduly harsh,” Spielman said. “It is about what matters for children.”

The schools watchdog is legally required to inspect all schools every five years, but those rated outstanding have been exempt from reinspection since 2011.

Read more in the Times by Sian Griffiths, Education Editor