Ofsted

Labour’s Ofsted plans ‘logical evolution’, says Spielman

Chief inspector says it's 'completely rational for a potential alternative government to be thinking about things like this'

Chief inspector says it's 'completely rational for a potential alternative government to be thinking about things like this'

17 Mar 2023, 8:00

Amanda Spielman
Exclusive

Labour’s plans to ditch Ofsted grades in favour of a school report card could be the “logical evolution” of how school performance is communicated, Amanda Spielman has said.

The chief inspector told Schools Week it was “completely rational for a potential alternative government to be thinking about things like this”, after shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson set out her reform proposals at the weekend.

Labour has said it will consult on scrapping the current system of four grades, opting instead for a report card that shows what schools do well and what they need to do to improve.

The party has not said what metrics will feature on the card.

Quizzed on the proposals this week, Spielman said it sounded “mainly presentational”, putting information in a different way.

“It sounds like a sort of logical evolution of everything that gets drawn together in performance tables at the moment.”

Spielman said she “constantly talks” about the purposes of inspection “and that how both the inspection that you design – and how you report it – depends on what those policy purposes are”.

“It’s completely rational for a potential alternative government to be thinking about things like this. I don’t think anybody has the slightest discomfort about that.”

‘Strong perception’ parents want simplicity

But she said “we have overall judgments because of the different purposes that inspection is serving”.

“There’s been… a strong perception that parents want the simplicity and clarity of an overall judgment in schools, for example, and that governments want handles to justify both incentives…and legitimacy for interventions with poor performers.

“I’m sure that Labour will be thinking about how they would want those to work in a new system. But there are many aspects of inspection that are determined by those policy purposes. So it is rightly for ministers to determine what those policy purposes are.”

Spielman leaves the watchdog at the end of this year after seven years at the helm.

Labour’s proposed changes will therefore be left to another chief inspector to implement, but Spielman said she was glad to see education issues debated.

“I feel we’ve had so many years when, between Brexit and Covid and cost of living, there’s been little space for people to think and talk about moving education forward.”

Ofsted to take on school improvement role

Labour has long pledged to re-assess how schools are graded with Ofsted expected to turn its focus to school improvement under a Labour government. The length and frequency of inspections is also expected to be up for review.

Announcing the party’s proposals at the annual conference of the school leaders’ union ASCL in Birmingham at the weekend, Phillipson said Labour would “bring a wind of change … and drive forward reform of education and of childcare as part of our mission to break down barriers to opportunity”.

She said Labour would consult “very quickly” on the changes if it formed the next government.

The party is also proposing annual school safeguarding reviews, which would be carried out by Ofsted. She also pledged to “make sure that inspectors are specialists in the phase that they are inspecting”.

“I would expect that more serving school leaders would want to work in a reformed system where they feel they have more confidence and trust that inspections are full and comprehensive.”

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  1. Bizarre.

    If “it’s completely rational for a potential alternative government to be thinking about things like this”, surely it’s even more rational for the current government to be thinking about it, or – better – to have thought about it, and implemented, it years ago.

    And if “ditch[ing] Ofsted grades in favour of a school report card could be the “logical evolution” of how school performance is communicated”, surely it’s just as logical to ditch Ofqual’s grades in favour of a student attainment card, or – better – “passport”.

    Or rather more logical, for cliff-edge exams are not only pernicious, but deliver unreliable outcomes too. Ofqual themselves admit that exam grades “are reliable to one grade either way”; words that mask the deeper truth that about 1 grade in every 4 is wrong.

    https://feweek.co.uk/gcse-re-sits-wrong-grades-drain-students-and-resources/
    https://www.canburypress.com/blogs/news/the-perfect-crime