Less than half the current “additional inspectors” asked to join Ofsted’s new in-house inspection team made it through the watchdog’s tough new assessment process.

Ofsted’s director of schools, Sean Harford, revealed the low pass rate at the Northern Rocks pedagogy conference in Leeds last Saturday during a debate about the inspectorate’s future with Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Dr Mary Bousted.

Sean Harford

Ofsted’s upcoming reforms include bringing all school inspectors in-house, rather than contracting from third parties.

Mr Harford told the 500 delegates: “We took a system that had between 2,800 and 3,000 additional inspectors. Those people were asked to apply for the new inspection arrangements.

“They went through an application sift, they did online assessment, they did training and as a result of that we’ve now got something around the order of 1,200 to 1,300.

“By January we will have 1,500 people, more than 70 per cent of whom will be from the sector.”

But Mr Harford’s reassurances about reform were not enough to ease the concerns of Dr Bousted, one of Ofsted’s fiercest critics.

She said Ofsted had been “unable to answer the charge” that its judgments lacked “sufficient reliability” and, in particular, “that the grade given by one inspection team would be replicated by another”.

She added: “It is this issue of quality control that goes to the heart of the effectiveness and the ethics of Ofsted’s inspection regime, because if Ofsted’s judgments can’t be trusted, how can the agency justify the £142 million a year it takes in taxpayers’ money?”

Mary Myatt

Mr Harford said that “despite the best efforts” of critics such as Dr Bousted, Ofsted was “not about to be sent into the wilderness like some mythical goat.

“We’re going to be tougher on inspectors and on what they can and cannot do in the name of Ofsted inspection, so you won’t see them doing ‘mocksteds’ if they want to carry on doing their work.

“I know we will never be loved, but I do aim for greater respect of the inspectorate, to enable us to get on with our job and to report fairly and without fear or favour on all sides.”

David Cameron

Saturday’s event was the second annual Northern Rocks conference, which focuses on pedagogy and is held in the north of England specifically to benefit teachers in the region who find it difficult to access events in London.

Other speakers included education consultant David Cameron, who led a workshop on why “education tourism”, the act of turning to other countries for policy inspiration, had to stop, and Ofsted inspector Mary Myatt, who gave her breakout session advice on inspection from the inspector’s point of view.