Confidence in Ofsted has been undermined and needs to be restored, according to the Education Select Committee’s latest report out today.
The report examines lessons from the committee’s inquiry into the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ investigations carried out after allegations were made last year that a group of hardline Islamists were plotting to ‘take over’ some of the city’s schools.
No evidence of a sustained plot was found during the inquiry. There was also little evidence of extremism or radicalism in schools – with only one, isolated incident uncovered.
In a chapter on Ofsted’s role in the affair, it is noted that several implicated schools were rated as ‘outstanding’ by the inspectorate only to find their rating downgraded to ‘inadequate’ after inspectors returned – sometimes within a year of the prior visit.
The report states:
“Ofsted’s inability to identify problems at some Birmingham schools on first inspection when they were found shortly afterwards to be failing raises questions about
the appropriateness of the framework and the reliability and robustness of Ofsted’s judgements and how they are reached.
“Either Ofsted relied too heavily on raw data and did not dig deep enough on previous occasions or alternatively the schools deteriorated so quickly that Ofsted reports were rapidly out of date, or it could be that inspectors lost objectivity and came to some overly negative conclusions because of the surrounding political and media storm.
“Whichever of these options is closest to the truth, confidence in Ofsted has been undermined and efforts should be made by the inspectorate to restore it in Birmingham and beyond.”
Responding to the report, an Ofsted spokesperson said:
“Ofsted welcomes today’s report and will consider its recommendations carefully.
“As the Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, made clear to the committee last year, sudden changes in governance and leadership can have a significant impact on the standards in education. These Birmingham schools were no exception.
“Ofsted is committed to ensuring that such drastic declines are not repeated elsewhere and will continue to work closely with other agencies to identify and investigate any areas of concern.
“All schools have an expectation on them to teach values such as tolerance and the rule of law and prepare pupils for life in modern Britain. This is outlined in guidance issued by the DfE and Ofsted inspects schools against the criteria in this guidance.
“From September 2015 Ofsted will begin conducting shorter more frequent inspections of good schools. Our new approach will mean that signs of decline can be spotted early and the necessary action can be taken to ensure pupils are receiving a broad and balanced education which prepares them for life in modern Britain.”
The full list of recommendations from the report are available here.