Ofsted still not ready to scrap 'outstanding' grade

Ofsted is still not ready to decide on the scrapping of the “outstanding” grade, more than a year after its new leader spoke of her discomfort about it.

Amanda Spielman told parliament today that issues with Ofsted’s grading system may not be addressed until the inspectorate’s new framework is implemented in two years’ time.

Spielman said last year that she wanted to have “discussions” about scrapping the top ‘outstanding’ grade. During her pre-appointment hearing with parliament’s education committee last June, the chief inspector of schools admitted she was “quite uncomfortable” with “some of the effects” she saw the outstanding grade having on the school system.

However, Spielman told the same committee this morning that she did not have an “easy answer” on the issue because of a conflict between the views of schools and parents.

Spielman said she was in the “same position” of having “some level of discomfort”, and said the “noise” from the schools community in favour of scrapping the grade was “very clear”.

However, she said the views of parents were “in a rather different place”, and said Ofsted was now looking at how to “reconcile” the two, admitting that achieving a system helpful for both sides was “a real challenge”.

“This is why we have a number of pieces of research going on that are helping us to work out how to triangulate this, but I don’t have an easy answer,” she said.

Ofsted has been looking at “all the different ways” it operates in the system, Spielman told MPs, and grades are only “one piece of that”.

One key element is the balance between “what is useful for parents and what is useful for providers”, she said, adding that she had found professional conversations with inspectors were the “single most useful thing” for providers, whereas parents found other things helpful.

When pressed by Hull MP and former NUT activist Emma Hardy on whether changes to gradings could reward schools that took large numbers of pupils with special education needs or excluded pupils, Spielman said this was an “interesting suggestion for the new framework”.

Disbanding the term may therefore need to wait for the development of the next framework, which is not due until September 2019.