Ofsted’s chief inspector has said it is “profoundly disappointing” to see commentators trying to “polarise” the back-to-school debate by “portraying teachers in a negative light”.

Teachers’ safety concerns about returning to the classroom have prompted criticism from national newspaper columnists and some politicians.

Writing for Schools Week, Amanda Spielman said it was “very clear to me that teachers want to teach and the current situation is as professionally frustrating as it is personally concerning”.

She also said that criticism of the level of home learning provision was “unhelpful”.

Lord Adonis, a former Labour schools minister, recently called on Ofsted to name and shame schools not providing adequate online learning.

Spielman said: “Many schools have made a tremendous effort from a standing start, and they are doing what they can in the absence of clear guidelines.

“When calls have been made for Ofsted to inspect home learning, I have been very clear that there are no standards to judge against and little clarity over what schools are required to do in these extraordinary circumstances.”

She reiterated calls for the government to set “clear expectations” for schools and parents about what could be expected as “some children [will] need to be educated remotely for some time to come”.

“That needs to be part of the government plan
if not this term then certainly next, so that schools, parents and children know what is expected of them.”

Inspections have been paused this term to allow schools to concentrate on the pandemic. But Ofsted has started to consult parents on when they think they should start again (see story below).

Spielman said that Ofsted would “play its part” in the “period of recovery” when schools started to readmit pupils.

“When we do pick inspection back up, we will need to meet schools where they are, focus on building confidence in parents and supporting the process of recovery,” she said. “To help us, we will be working with government, unions, professional representatives and parent groups to gather views.”

The road to reopening was a “difficult balancing act”, but that as the crisis abated it would be “schools once again in the forefront – helping a unique generation of young people regain the confidence, resilience and optimism that a great education provides”.