Framework criticism is just ‘small and vocal minority’, claims defiant Spielman


The criticism of Ofsted’s new inspection framework is solely down to a “small and vocal minority”, Amanda Spielman will claim this weekend, as the government prepares to intervene in matters.

The chief inspector will tell ResearchED Birmingham that “feedback from many directions is telling us that the inspections are nearly always working well” with schools “overwhelmingly” positive.

Overwhelmingly the schools who have been inspected are positive about it

The claims will surprise, and be hotly-contested, by many in the sector. They come after substantial criticism from school and academy trust leaders over Ofsted’s new framework.

That includes influential academy trusts, such as the Harris Federation and Outwood Grange, who say the new focus on curriculum, rather than outcomes, is punishing disadvantaged pupils.

Schools Week has been told education secretary Gavin Williamson is set to intervene in the matter. A draft letter from Williamson, and a response from Spielman, have been shared between the departments. Downing Street will have to sign off the letter before publication, Schools Week was told.

But Spielman will say on Saturday: “We do know there is a small – and vocal – minority who don’t like the new model, or who haven’t been happy with their experience of it or with their outcome.

“But overwhelmingly the schools who have been inspected are positive about it.”

However, some headteachers have even called on their colleagues to stop working as Ofsted inspectors under the “Pause Ofsted” campaign amid the new framework fallout.

Spielman will also bat away concerns, claiming the HMI recruitment pipeline is the “strongest it has been for a very long time, in terms of both quantity and quality”.

She said the call “doesn’t seem to have prompted a single resignation that we can find, nor are we noticing people reducing their commitment”.

However, Schools Week knows of at least four inspectors who say they have stepped away from doing regular inspections.

The chief inspector will say there have been “a few wrinkles and teething issues – among several thousand inspections, how could there not be – but we take all feedback very seriously, and work fast to address issues, as for example we did back in September to sort out a problem that was flagged up for small primary schools”.

Schools Week understands the chief inspector will also use her speech to school leaders’ union ASCL’s annual conference next week to tackle criticism of the framework “head-on”, while also addressing how implementation of the framework is being refined in light of feedback.


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  1. Eric Fairchild

    As a school governor working with schools in deprived communities it is my view that the new Ofsted framework risks damaging the life prospects of children in poorer areas. Yes, we can all agree that a concentration on “teach to the test” at the expense of a broad and balanced curriculum short changes our children but the current framework risks schools taking their feet off the pedal in terms of childrens’ attainment. We know that life chances are much improved if children do well at school and succeed in their learning and can demonstrate this through examination success which enhances their chances of finding a decent job or a place at university. At a recent inspection under the new framework I was asked by the inspector how I knew that the school was serving children well. I responded by reference to outcomes that were above national averages across the board only to be shut down as he was not interested in attainment data. In my view the new Ofsted framework is unbalanced when successful schools are failed on the altar of some imagined gold standard of what good education looks like.

  2. Terry Pearson

    There is a major problem with many assertions that are made by Ofsted and that is that they cannot be verified.

    Whilst Amanda Spielman makes striding claims such as ‘feedback from many directions is telling Ofsted that the inspections are nearly always working well’, ‘overwhelmingly the schools that have been inspected are positive about it’, ‘the HMI recruitment pipeline is the strongest it has been for a very long time, in terms of both quantity and quality’, it is impossible to check the veracity of these claims because the data/evidence to support claims such as these are not openly available to the public in a raw form. Consequently, the public can only take such claims at face value which in Ofsted terms might be best described as a totally ‘inadequate’ state to be in.

    As for the sweeping claim that ‘Ofsted take all feedback very seriously, and work fast to address issues’ I have personal experience to the contrary. In August 2018, I produced a review of Ofsted’s test of the reliability of short inspections, a copy of which is openly available on this link's_test_of_the_reliability_of_short_inspections

    The report was sent directly to HMCI in the first instance with a letter explaining that it had been produced in the spirit of critical feedback and included as list of recommendations that could be used to help Ofsted progress effectively. This feedback was not taken seriously and the inspectorate made it clear that it did not intend to address any of the issues raised.

    In May 2019 I also raised concerns with Ofsted about errors in the Ofsted document “Educational effectiveness research and further education and skills”. Those errors still exist.

    Maybe the time has come for an independent point of contact for concerns about inspection. I am not convinced that the current system works as well as it should be doing.