England’s largest teaching union has urged its members to stop working as Ofsted inspectors, as it backed a campaign by leading headteachers to challenge the current school accountability system.
The National Education Union’s leadership council, which represents school leaders that are members of the union, has backed the #PauseOfsted campaign, launched at the Headteachers’ Roundtable annual conference today.
But Ofsted has slammed the group’s “ideological opposition to school inspection”, and claimed it had the support of the majority of teachers and heads.
The campaign was announced in a Schools Week op-ed by the think tank’s chair Stephen Tierney, who recently left his job as the head of a group of schools in Blackpool, blaming accountability and school funding cuts for his early departure from the profession.
In his article, Tierney wrote that leaders working as Ofsted inspectors – serving school leaders who are contracted by Ofsted to carry out inspections alongside the watchdog’s directly-employed Her Majesty’s Inspectors – should withdraw their labour.
According to Ofsted’s website, the watchdog has contracts with “more than 2,300 Ofsted Inspectors” across England.
“Some 70 per cent of inspectors are current practitioners. So what if we all said no?” said Tierney.
“What if we chose to answer the call to beneficence differently? What would the school system lose, and what would it gain by such action?”
Tierney’s intervention follows a backlash against Ofsted’s new inspection framework, which came into effect last September.
The watchdog’s increased focus on curriculum over outcomes was intended to help tackle workload and perverse incentives that make schools teach to the test, but headteachers say it fails to take into account the individual circumstances of their schools.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said “As the union with the second largest leadership membership, the NEU supports Ethical Leadership. We call upon our members who are additional inspectors to stop working for Ofsted.
“It is time to take back our pride and professionalism. It is time for an independent inspectorate which is trustworthy and trusted by teachers and leaders. It is time to radically reform Ofsted.”
Tierney informed today’s conference that he had been contacted by one academy trust leader who said all five inspectors working within their organisation had stood down today.
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Our independent inspections of schools are trusted and valued by parents.
“Most teachers and heads find the inspection process positive and use it to improve their school. Ideological opposition to school inspection doesn’t serve parents, pupils or teachers well.”