Ofsted framework: Heads warn audit culture will ‘switch’ to exercise books

Headteachers have dismissed Ofsted’s claims that its new inspection framework will reduce workload, warning that a proposed shift from internal data to pupils’ books will only create more problems.

The watchdog has proposed that inspectors no longer look at schools’ internal assessment data, admitting that its collection can create extra work for teachers.

Instead they will look at “first-hand evidence” of learning, including “work in pupils’ books and folders”. The proposals “will not create unnecessary workload for teachers”.

Pity the poor pupils and teachers who will be required to record every detail of a lesson

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, also backed the inspectorate’s claim, which appears to be a clear softening in tone from August when he warned that overhauling the inspection framework could increase workload.

But Stephen Tierney, chair of Heads’ Roundtable, said a move away from data would simply “switch the audit culture” to exercise books.

“Pity the poor pupils and teachers who will be required to record every detail of a lesson.”

Tierney also warned inspectors without expertise in a subject would now be “having a bit of a punt about what they see” in books.

Ofsted’s proposed handbook also says that to be “outstanding”, schools must “consistently go the extra mile” for the personal development of pupils.

But leaders must also ensure issues around workload are “consistently dealt with appropriately and quickly” to get the top grade.

The two requirements are “not necessarily compatible,” Tierney said.

Hinds has previously admitted that “perceptions of what Ofsted wants” have unintentionally contributed to more workload – which he said was a key issue that he wanted to tackle.

But he said this week “the fact this framework addresses this is a hugely positive step forward for all our schools”.

Ros McMullen, executive principal of the Midlands Academies Trust, said a high-stakes inspection regime would “always negatively impact on workload”.

“To announce they’re going to be looking at the extent to which leaders are reducing workload is the greatest irony of all.

“It’s symptomatic of the inherent contradiction in the whole process of inspection. It’s bonkers.”