Education unions analyse annual Ofsted report

The NEU and ASCL have each spoken out on Ofsted’s latest annual report, which was published yesterday

The chief inspector of Ofsted has “failed to identify” the solutions outlined in her annual report, according to the National Education Union.

In the report, Amanda Spielman outlines Ofsted’s work over the last year whilst looking to the future. Both the NEU and the ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders), however, have criticised the elements Spielman missed.

“Amanda Spielman clearly identifies the problems faced by our schools but fails to identify the obvious solutions to these problems,” said Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU.

“Off-rolling, delayed identification and support for children with SEND, orphan schools left for over 18 months without a sponsor – all these are symptoms of an underlying problem which is that the school system in England is fragmented.

“Schools are being left to ‘go it alone’ without adequate oversight or support. Ofsted, quite rightly, abhors off-rolling, but refuses to admit its own role in creating an inspection system which has focused, above all, on data which has created the pressure on schools to off-role.

“Ofsted deplores the delay in the identification and support of children with SEND but refuses to identify the decimation of local-authority funding which has led to the crisis in special needs which is so catastrophic for children and their parents.

“Ofsted identifies a lack of sponsor capacity, which it concludes has resulted in schools being left in limbo for over 18 months. Amanda Spielman says that the current half-way approach for academisation is not working. She then proposes the wrong solution – that the government looks again at incentives for good schools to convert to academy status – when there is no evidence that academy conversion improves school standards.

“Devoid of effective ideas to raise educational standards and complicit in enforcing the narrowing of the curriculum and teaching to the test practices it now deplores, Ofsted is now an agency which is distrusted by teachers and school leaders.

“It is time for a new approach to school accountability and inspection.”

Stephen Rollett, curriculum and inspections specialist at the ASCL, added that Spielman did not talk enough about funding and support services.

Amanda Spielman is right to say that some young people have the deck stacked against them, but we wish she would acknowledge that the totally inadequate level of funding in schools and local support services is undermining efforts to improve their life chances,” Rollett said.

[On SEND support] “Schools are working tirelessly to provide the most vulnerable children in our society with the education they need and deserve in the face of significant budget cuts as well as the erosion of local services for families and children.

“These funding pressures make it more difficult to give children the individual support which is so important in helping them to overcome learning challenges. And it means that schools are less able to put in place the early intervention which prevents challenging behaviour escalating to the point of an exclusion.

“Schools are doing their very best for children with special educational needs but are being expected to do more with less.”

[On stuck schools] “These schools are often badly affected by nationwide teacher shortages making it extremely difficult for them to secure sustained improvement. They also suffer from the impact of an accountability system in which the dice are loaded against them. School performance measures and Ofsted inspections are themselves part of the problem.

“They stigmatise schools which makes recruitment even more difficult, and leadership a precarious business. Part of the solution needs to be a new and less severe approach to accountability.”

[On off-rolling] “The vast majority of school leaders deplore off-rolling and will welcome any action to crackdown on this unacceptable practice. It is important, however, that data on high levels of pupil movement is used as the starting point to a conversation and that inspectors don’t go into schools with a pre-conceived notion.

“We are reassured by the approach outlined in Ofsted’s annual report but we will need to see how this works in practice.”

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