Labour will complete “far-reaching reform” of Ofsted and introduce a peer review improvement system by 2020 if the party forms a government after May 7, Tristram Hunt has pledged.
Addressing the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) annual conference in Liverpool this morning, the shadow education secretary said the school improvement system was too focused on a “target-driven, exam factory model” of education and had “reached its end stages”.
Mr Hunt said he would go further than Ofsted schools director Sean Harford, who last week said reform should take place over the next decade, by pledging to introduce a new system by the end of the next Parliament. He also said he was partly responding to calls from the ATL and other unions including the ASCL and NAHT.
He said: “There can be no doubt in my mind that Ofsted has been an extraordinarily progressive force for improving this country’s educational outcomes and spreading equal opportunity to areas of historic disadvantage.
“But I also believe we may have reached the tipping point. The moment when our inspection system begins to choke something far more precious.
“When the joy, wonder and beauty of schooling risks being buried in the avalanche of bureaucracy that emerges out of the increasingly byzantine demands of inspection. Or at least the frazzled, insecure interpretation of those demands by some head-teachers.
“So whilst I believe Ofsted has been a vehicle for progress in our education system, it too must surely evolve.”
He said he wanted to see the inspectorate, which has a budget of £146m for 2014/15, move beyond “box-ticking and data dependence”, and allow heads to “innovate and develop a richer criterion of school achievement”.
He added: “I want to see an inspectorate that is free from even the merest suspicion of politicisation and political interference.
“I want to see consistency and support in the assessment of teaching and learning, with no prescriptions made on pedagogy.
“And I want to see an end to the nonsense of further education experts inspecting primary schools, and other equally absurd misallocations.”
The announcement received a positive response among delegates, including Nick Clayton, an English teacher at a secondary school in Wirral.
He told Schools Week: “It was a really bold statement, a step in the right direction towards trusting teachers, to have a teacher-led system will help after being battered and belittled for a long time.
“It will be good to finally have a return to trusting in teachers.”