Johnson pledges 'no-notice' Ofsted inspections

Boris Johnson has pledged to trial “no-notice” Ofsted inspections for schools if he is re-elected.

In a surprise announcement, Johnson said he wanted to change the way inspections work, so they give a “true reflection” of how well schools are performing.

No-notice inspections will do more harm than good

The proposal did not feature in the Conservatives’ manifesto, launched less than a week ago.

At present, schools are notified of Ofsted’s intention to visit at around noon on the working day before the start of the inspection.

According to reports, a pilot of “snap” inspections will go ahead if the Conservatives form the next government.

The prime minister defended his plans on ITV tonight, claiming they “won’t be more Draconian”.

“The intention is to support teachers and what we want to see is increased funding for teachers, increased funding for teachers’ salaries, increased funding for schools,” he told the broadcaster.

But the proposals have not gone down well with school leaders.

“Inspection is already near no-notice, with the first inspection interviews taking place within a few hours of notification of inspection,” said Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT union.

“No-notice inspections will do more harm than good – they will result in more wasted time for inspectors, whilst arrangements are frantically put in place to meet their needs; they will be more disruptive and stressful to teachers and pupils; and will give zero additional insight in return.”

According to news reports, the prime minister has also announced plans to increase the length of inspections from two days to three, and has said he will pump an additional £10 million into Ofsted’s coffers to fund his proposed changes.

So-called “dawn raid” inspections have been mooted before by former Ofsted chief inspectors, but were abandoned because of concerns from heads and parents.

“The notion of no-notice inspections has been raised and rejected on so many occasions that it is difficult to see any purpose in flogging this dead horse yet again,” said Geoff Barton, from leadership union ASCL.

“The current notice period is very short with Ofsted contacting the school only the lunchtime before the inspection begins. Even if they were inclined to do so, which they are not, it would be difficult for schools to perform whatever sleight of hand the Conservatives suspect them of by 8am the next morning.

“It is also worth pointing out that no-notice inspections can already be carried out where there are serious concerns.”