Unions comment on Conservative Party plans for Ofsted

The Association of School and College Leaders and the National Education Union have commented on the Conservative’s promise to strengthen Ofsted

Boris Johnson is announcing plans for longer inspections and an extra £10m funding for Ofsted. There will also be trials of “no-notice inspections”, where schools could be visited without any prior warning. Their plans are in stark contrast to Labour and the Lib Dems who want to replace Ofsted with different bodies.

Commenting on the Conservative Party’s plans to give Ofsted greater powers and more funding, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“The additional £10m that the Conservatives are planning to spend on Ofsted inspections would pay for about 200 teachers at a time when schools and colleges are starved of the funding they need.

“Parents might well feel that the Conservatives have got their priorities wrong by choosing to divert desperately needed money into the inspection system.

“It is important that the public understands that the plans announced by Boris Johnson earlier this year to spend more on schools do not fully address the funding crisis and it is far from over.

“The idea of extending inspections from two days to three days in order to focus on behaviour, bullying and the extra-curricular offering may give people the impression that these responsibilities do not receive enough attention. In reality, these are already key elements of school inspections and are covered extensively in the inspection handbook. Behaviour is mentioned no fewer than 80 times.

“The notion of no-notice inspections has been raised and rejected on so many occasions that it is difficult to see any purpose in flogging this dead horse yet again.

“The current notice period is very short with Ofsted contacting the school only the lunchtime before the inspection begins. Even if they were inclined to do so, which they are not, it would be difficult for schools to perform whatever sleight of hand the Conservatives suspect them of by eight am the next morning.

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“In the period between receiving the call and the inspection starting, schools are expected to prepare 15 items of information for the inspectors, so obviously no-notice inspections are completely impractical.

“It is also worth pointing out that no-notice inspections can already be carried out where there are serious concerns.

“We agree with the proposal to lift the inspection exemption for outstanding schools. But it should be noted that this amounts to the Conservatives carrying out a U-turn on a policy which Conservative former education secretary Michael Gove introduced in 2011.”

Commenting on the Conservative’s pledge to extend the powers of Ofsted, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Doing more of the same is not a good idea when it comes to Ofsted. No-notice inspections will not improve the quality of Ofsted inspectors, nor the accuracy of their judgements.

“The promise of more money to Ofsted to lengthen their inspections will heap more stress, pressure and exhaustion on teachers and leaders who already work more unpaid overtime than any other profession.

“If it is the Conservative’s aim to drain teachers of hope and to force them to leave the profession they love, then this announcement is just the ticket.”

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