Labour’s reforms to Ofsted would see the watchdog take on a strengthened school improvement role, with the length and timing of inspections also up for discussion.
Shadow education secretary Kate Green told Schools Week her party wanted Ofsted to be “part of the process of initiating improvement” for schools most in need of “extra attention and help”.
She claimed school leaders had “really welcomed” Ofsted’s more “constructive” role during the pandemic.
“That’s not to say I don’t want a rigorous inspection regime, but I think there’s opportunity not just to focus on reporting, but challenge and improvement.”
Labour confirmed this week that Ofsted would be reformed under a future Labour government, and not scrapped, as was proposed in 2019.
Green told Schools Week there was an “opportunity” for Ofsted to focus its resources and effort on schools most in need.
This would also mean a “lighter” touch for schools struggling less, she said, though inspection has been “too light” for outstanding schools in recent years, she acknowledged.
Pressed on whether this would mean changes to the length and frequency of inspections for some schools, Green said her party had not “bottomed out” the policy, but that it would be “important to discuss” those issues.
She also pledged to work with Ofsted and school leaders to design the new system, so as “not to confuse the inspection and the improvement functions”.
Green would not be drawn on whether Ofsted would take over the school improvement role for academies currently held by regional schools commissioners, but said there was a “bigger question about the fragmentation of our school system”.
“I think there is real need to streamline, to make consistent, the way we treat all schools, whatever their structure.”
The announcement is likely to lead to renewed concerns about how a single body can both be involved in school improvement while also inspecting schools to check if they have improved.
Similar concerns about visits of academies by RSCs, branded “shadow inspections”, resulted in them being heavily scaled back in 2018. Among those who questioned the approach at the time was former Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw, who warned of “confused and inconsistent” oversight.