Ofsted

Leaders divided over Labour plan for Ofsted trust inspections

Labour wants Ofsted to inspect trusts as well as individual schools

Labour wants Ofsted to inspect trusts as well as individual schools

Labour plans to have Ofsted inspect multi-academy trusts must not be “rushed”, sector leaders have said, with chief executives divided on the proposal.

The party wants trusts inspected as part of an overhaul of the inspectorate, which will include single-phrase judgments replaced by a “report card” system.

However, Labour’s shadow education team has said little about how the trust inspections would work, how often they would take place, who would conduct them and how they would be graded.

At present, Ofsted carries out summary evaluations of trusts, batch-inspecting some of their schools, but does not directly look at the workings of their central teams.

Ofsted’s Big Listen consultation, which closed last week, also sought views on whether groups of schools should be inspected.

In its response, the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) said the change was “inevitable”, but must not be “rushed”.

Steve Rollett

Steve Rollett, the confederation’s deputy chief executive, said Ofsted would “need to understand how those inspections would fit within the wider accountability and regulatory system, what exactly they would cover, and how they can really add value without adding burden or duplication.

“It would be essential that the sector itself is involved in shaping an approach because this is where the expertise about trusts exists.”

Who would inspect trusts?

In October, law firm Browne Jacobson surveyed 204 school leaders in England, a quarter of whom were chief executives and deputy CEOs.

Forty-nine per cent of respondents identified a lack of necessary expertise within Ofsted as the main barrier to inspections.

Paul Tarn, the chief executive of Delta Academies Trust, asked who would do the inspections. “What makes an effective trust … we’ve only just got some guidance around that. But who’s going to make a judgment about the effectiveness?”

He claimed the current inspection system meant “many schools being judged good (which) are clearly not good” in terms of results.

“The idea you are going to take that same body (Ofsted), which is in a mess, and say ‘let’s look at MAT inspections’, well, there’s a problem. Experts on running MATs are running MATs.”

In January the education committee urged ministers to “authorise Ofsted to develop a framework for the inspection of MATs as a matter of urgency and set out a plan for building the appropriate expertise and capacity in this area”.

MPs said Ofsted would need to be “appropriately resourced to develop” this expertise.

Ofsted said it has “continually been asked to do more with less” and that its funding was 29 per cent lower in real terms compared with 2009-10, despite an expanding remit since 2005.

The inspectorate previously welcomed “the committee agreeing with our evidence that inspection of MATs is appropriate and inevitable”.

It suggested consideration should also be given to inspecting other groups of education providers, such as dioceses, groups of nurseries, children’s homes and independent schools.

‘It’s a good thing’

Julian Schofield, the chief executive of Esteem Multi-Academy Trust, said he’d welcome the extra accountability.

“Ultimately, it would mean MATs, get the recognition for the how they improve schools.” 

He feared the alternative would be “more regulation by the DfE…and they just look at data and headlines and then they make big judgments based on not that much information”.

There would be “a degree of thoroughness and rigour” if Ofsted inspected trusts.

“If you’re totally against it, then in a sense you’re saying you’re against accountability.”

Should schools still be inspected?

Dr Jenny Blunden, the chief executive of the Truro and Penwith Academy Trust, said its 34 schools in Cornwall seemed to be on a “very regular Ofsted inspection cycle”.

Jenny Blunden

“Much of what is inspected is relatively repetitive because there is a fair amount of consistency in our practice across our schools.”

She would be “quite happy if Ofsted were to have conversations at MAT level”.

“My view is that it can’t just be layered on top of the current level of scrutiny and interrogation at individual school level.

“It’s healthy for Ofsted to be looking at what is the trust doing with regard to all schools in the trust and particularly those schools that are causing the trust most concern.”

Labour has also said it would introduce annual checks on safeguarding and attendance as part of its planned reforms.

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3 Comments

  1. David Bennett

    Of course they’re scared – they’ll have to account for the unnecessary large team of ‘essential’ Trust senior staff – who can teach, but got out the classroom at the earliest opportunity to pontificate pedogogic ideas from 8 years ago – as well as closer scrutiny of the 6 figure salaries they are paying exec heads who make teachers’ workload and teaching lives immeasurably harder and act as basically glorified pastoral support workers – wandering round the school; that’s if they’re in the building at all.

  2. Veronica Walker

    I don’t think that Ofsted are the right people
    To
    Inspect Trusts. There is no accountability from Trusts as I have found out with my MP complaint case. Why is this ? Well it’s because education is being privatised. some
    Leaders don’t have business acumen or even the experience for the level of education they are providing yet parents are gaslighted and fined , and that’s
    Ok. Ofsted don’t give enough time for a proper
    Inspection and don’t Listen
    To
    Parents or
    Kids they like every other state body just listen to the education providers. That’s the problem. Ignore reality.

    • Anonymous

      I think you are right that ofsted are probably not the right group but it has to start somewhere. Trusts are fast becoming too powerful in business terms and schools are suffering. And I mean good schools, not struggling schools.
      Way too much money being syphoned off from schools by these trusts for their own benefit, vampires in fast cars.