#PauseOfsted – Briefing Page

The Headteachers’ Roundtable is inviting all school-based, paid employees to consider standing down as Ofsted Inspectors. We want to build a grassroots movement seeking to reclaim professional agency and responsibility for school improvement. A fully copy of the letter sent to all Headteachers in England is available here.

England’s current high stakes, cliff-edged accountability system has now served its purpose. Our schools require less externally-driven change, metrics and measurement-orientated education, grading and ranking and fear and anxiety which are damaging our school communities.  We believe the accountability system and its inspectorate need fundamental reform.

“The opinion common to all is that the current impact of inspection is damaging to too many schools and head teachers, destroying careers and paralysing school improvement.  We believe that it is therefore a requirement of ethical leadership to refuse to be complicit and support a pause in the involvement of school leaders.”

Ros McMullen: https://headteachersroundtable.wordpress.com/2020/02/09/pauseofsted/

With your support, we seek to change accountability for the better; creating a more just, balanced and proportionate regulatory system focused on sustainable school improvement.  To provide the appropriate time, a positive climate for debate and opportunity to listen to a full range of views – school leaders, teachers, governors, parents, representative organisations and others with expertise –  the normal cycle of school inspection needs to be paused; initially for a period of six to nine months. 

We are proposing to use our collective agency as part of the #QuietRevolution.

  1. If you are currently a school-based/employed Ofsted inspector, we are asking you to make yourself unavailable, with immediate effect, for any inspections for the foreseeable future. A number of colleagues have already decided they would prefer to resign as they can no longer support the current inspection regime.Within the next fortnight, please write to your professional association or union requesting that they support the call to #PauseOfsted and seek a fundamental review of the high stakes, cliff edged accountability system.  Members’ views matter so please make your voice heard.
  2. Over the next month, contact two or three members of head teacher/governor groups across your region and share this discussion paper – we need everyone to help spread the word.  Ask them to consider supporting our call.
  3. During the next half term, meet as a local association/group with #PauseOfsted as a formal agenda item.  Commit to fully supporting the call for a fundamental review of the accountability system.
  4. During the next term, working with governors and directors, agree to no longer support applications from current employees for time away from school to carry out inspections or new applications to be Ofsted inspectors.

“…We are response-able and called to act ethically.  To school-based employees who act as inspectors and their employers: to what extent are you doing good when inspecting and grading other schools?To what extent can you claim not to be doing harm when school leaders and teachers serving our most needy communities are being forced or choosing to leave their jobs, in ever increasing numbers, due to the current accountability system?  To what extent are your actions just?”

Headteachers’ Roundtable Summit: https://leadinglearner.me/2020/02/07/time-to-pauseofsted-htrt2020/

Whilst conscious of the many knowledgeable and interested groups that may wish to contribute to a formal review of school accountability, we believe that:

  1. The education system in England does need a regulatory framework that sets a minimum standard expected of our schools.  This framework should enable all schools to meet the expected standard
  • The current regulator massively overuses the blunt instrument of inspection with limited evidence of reliability, too much variability between inspection teams and invalid conclusions which more closely correlate to the socio-economic intake of the school rather than its effectiveness. Little or no weighting is given to the very different budgets schools receive.

  • The use of data in performance tables, neither contextualised nor comparative, provides a misleading and narrow view of the value schools add to children’s development and growth. This needs to change.

  • Ofsted or its successor needs to use a broader range of regulatory tools choosing the most appropriate one for the purpose required.  For example, the current inspecting of safeguarding is inadequate.  Safeguarding is an audit issue not an inspection one; regular audit – reported to governors/directors – is needed to help address off-rolling; ensure child protection arrangements are secure and well implemented and the needs of vulnerable children met.  This should be a continuous cycle of plan, do and review with external oversight.

  • Regulation must work alongside school improvement not against it.  The poor retention and recruitment of teachers is due in part to the excessive workload created by the current surveillance culture.  A future regulator should consider the efficacy of peer-to-peer review as a major element of ensuring schools met and exceed the expected standard, without the collateral damage caused by inspection.  Peer-to-peer review should be externally quality assured – this could be part of the role of Her Majesty’s Inspectors.

  • Improvement for schools working in the most challenging circumstances is inextricably linked with improvements in health, social services, policing, housing and economic prosperity.  A future regulator will need a much greater understanding of the impact of poverty and the need for a multi-departmental approach to address it.  The lack of adequate local services affects schools across the country.

  • Ofsted’s complaints process needs to be urgently reviewed and changed.  A new transparent process needs to be introduced with limited bureaucracy and an independent hearing to redress complaints upheld.  During the process, the school’s report would not be published.

“As to so-called ‘stuck schools’ – perhaps better labelled let-down schools or left-behind schools – the last thing they need is more Ofsted. What links so many of them together is the crushing poverty that blights the lives of the young people attending them. They need whole-community intervention, and for too long Ofsted has provided political cover for that uncomfortable fact.”

(Headteachers’ Roundtable: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/time-to-pause-ofsted-heres-how/)

We cannot continue to simply complain about the latest framework – the problem is much greater than that.  We need to act together for the sake of our children, schools and communities.  Please join our quiet revolution and #PauseOfsted.

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