Time to Radically Reform Ofsted

On Wednesday 28 March 2018 a conference held in the UCL Institute of Education, University College London titled, RADICAL IDEAS TO TRANSFORM OFSTED.  By all accounts it was a barnstorming affair.

The report available to download below was compiled by Frank Coffield:

Report on Radical Ideas to Transform Ofsted 28 March 2018

It is well worth spending a few minutes reading the main body of the report; it captures what so many of us, in the profession, have been saying for years.  The key recommendations are given below (with thanks to Heather Leatt for sharing) and UCL Institute of Education for hosting.  It adds to the debate and a growing cacophony of voices calling for the radical reform of the accountability system.  We won’t address workload, recruitment or retention without far reaching and immediate changes.

  1. There was consensus across the four sectors represented at the conference that the grading system should be removed and replaced with more professional dialogue, based on mutual respect and trust.
  2. Ofsted should focus on reporting on the overall quality of education, the current state of the system, and national surveys of particular topics such as teachers’ and students’ mental health/wellbeing or the experiences of discrimination faced by BME teachers and managers.
  3. As the need for Ofsted’s regulatory role decreases, its developmental role should expand and be prioritised.
  4. There was general support for Ofsted to adopt the approach of Appreciative Inquiry, which begins with agreeing, celebrating and extending a school’s strengths before turning to deal with its weaknesses.
  5. Ofsted’s reports need to reflect the complexity of educational organisations and become more informative, developmental and tentative. They need to be written in clear English that can be understood by parents and describe a school’s context, strengths and areas for improvement, with guidance on who needs to do what.
  6. Ofsted’s reports would command more trust and respect if they included details of the size of the sample, its representativeness, the number of lessons observed and for how long, as well as assessments of the reliability and validity of the judgements made.
  7. Inspection needs to be more democratic. Ofsted should share power with educators, governors, parents and members of the local community by negotiating the criteria by which they are to be judged and publishing their response to the inspection alongside the official report. We need to re-establish a system of national and local inspection, with revitalised Local Authorities given the funds to reappoint education advisers to work hand in glove with HMIs. The appointment of a link inspector and a college nominee as a full member of the inspection team would ensure a more equal partnership between the inspectorate and the teaching profession.
  8. Ofsted needs to make more allowance for the circumstances in which schools in disadvantaged areas operate by paying explicit attention to such factors as an organisation’s location, history, catchment area, intake and budget. Such schools also suffer from higher staff turnover and greater difficulties in recruitment.
  9. Given the overall improvements in the system and the severe reduction in Ofsted’s budget, its regulatory role should concentrate on the 10 per cent of schools evaluated as “inadequate” or “requiring improvement”.
  10. Inspectors need to be specialists in the subject, context or phase they are evaluating.
  11. Safeguarding and Prevent are issues better dealt with via external audit and compliance procedures.
  12. The roles of Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioners need to be clarified and the regions for which they are responsible need to be co-terminous.
  13. Ofsted should be given the power to inspect Multiple Academy Trusts.
  14. Senior Managers at Ofsted need to severely prune the vast amount of performance data currently demanded of schools and insist that inspectors on the ground observe this restriction, thus allowing tutors to meet the needs of students rather than those of inspectors. The perceived requirement to be “inspection ready” at all times creates the need for constant documentary evidence which consumes the time and efforts of staff.
  15. Ofsted needs a completely independent complaints body with the power to change judgements and make binding recommendations.
  16. The draft version of Ofsted’s new Framework of Inspection should be put out to consultation.
  17. Ofsted has a duty to report on the overall quality of education, its major successes as well as its major failures and the dangers facing the system such as the crisis in 6 teacher recruitment and retention. It must have the remit and the courage to criticise government policy where it is failing and to commend it where it is successful.
  18. It is in the interest of every student, every teacher and every educational organisation that a reformed Ofsted should succeed.
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