Latest Public Sector News

16.01.15

Ofsted to inspect schools twice on the same day

Ofsted plans to inspect some schools twice on the same day to test the reliability of its own inspectors’ findings.

The education watchdog will pilot the double inspections this term, which will see inspectors compare their findings to see if they have reached the same conclusions.

If the pilot proves successful, the method could be included in a new inspection framework from September for schools previously rated ‘good’.

On 31 December, Sean Harford, national director for schools at Ofsted, responded to a blogpost from head teacher Tom Sherrington and admitted that the watchdog has “not done enough in the past to test the reliability of inspection”.

He added: “I have built in reliability testing for the pilots for the new short inspections this term. If reliability is a problem, we will review the issues to see what we need to do to make the inspections reliable.”

An Ofsted spokesperson elaborated on the plans saying to test the reliability of the new short inspections, which Ofsted recently introduced for schools previously rated ‘good’. Consultative trials were conducted in schools in the autumn term.

"Feedback was positive and we will carry out pilots to test the shorter inspections across a range of schools in the spring term,” the spokesperson added.

"Reliability of the short inspection methodology will be tested during the pilots by two HMIs independently inspecting the same school on the same day and comparing the judgments."

However, teachers’ unions have slammed the plans, with the National Union of Teachers (NUT) going as far as to call for the abolition of the watchdog.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary, said: “The admission that Ofsted cannot guarantee the reliability and consistency of its inspection teams and judgements on schools is a disgrace.

"The NUT has long been saying that Ofsted judgements on schools were unreliable and that the system of school accountability in England requires root and branch reform.

"Ofsted should be abolished and a new system of school accountability based on school self-evaluation, school-to-school collaboration and support and a role for democratic local authorities put in its place. In the meantime there must be an external review of Ofsted's operation and judgements.”

He added that inspecting schools twice would “merely punishing schools for Ofsted's failings” rather than correct flaws in the system.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said the question of reliability had dogged Ofsted since it was set up and that it was “incomprehensible” it had taken 23 years before it addressed the issue.

Mary Bousted, the union’s general secretary, also questioned why Ofsted was not opening itself up to external evaluation of reliability trials if it as robust about quality assurance as it claims.

Sean Hartford said: “The validity of inspection judgements is of the utmost importance to Ofsted.

“We go to great lengths, through our existing quality assurance process, to ensure that inspectors make judgements which are rigorously based on the evidence gathered.

“It is frustrating that our attempts to enter a genuine debate about how we might improve still further our approach are being used to score cheap points about Ofsted’s work.”

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