Ofsted inspectors are calling on Amanda Spielman to suspend plans to begin on-site visits during the national lockdown – warning it is “simply unacceptable”.
The watchdog is set to begin its new ‘supportive’ monitoring visits on January 18, in spite of partial school closures.
However, inspectors who are members in the FDA Union “voted overwhelmingly” to call on the chief inspector to suspend routine on-site visits “as a matter of urgency”.
During a meeting yesterday, members raised concerns about the risks it would create for the health of staff and young people.
While they are not ruling out on-site visits completely, the unions says they should be limited to instances where there are immediate safeguarding concerns.
Duncan Woodhead, FDA national officer for Ofsted, said: “With the new Covid variant transmitting at 50-70 per cent higher than before and much higher numbers still attending nurseries, schools and colleges compared to the first lockdown, our first priority must be the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, as well as sector staff.”
“The secretary of state for health [yesterday] made clear that we are at the worst point in this pandemic and has urged everyone to act like they have the virus.
“In these circumstances, it is simply unacceptable for Ofsted to still be carrying out regular site visits”.
He also warned the visits and the safety concerns they create would “burden school leaders” who are already working in “incredibly difficult circumstances”.
“As well as the clear risks to the health of HMI staff undertaking the visits, with inspectors moving from site to site, there are clear risks posed to the health of students and school staff.”
The schools watchdog revealed yesterday it would arrange a testing programme to enable inspectors to take Covid tests before face-to-face visits.
It also said those conducting the visits will be given “up-to-date guidance on safety and supplied with PPE”.
Ofsted also confirmed the reasoning for conducting visits on-site amid growing fears around Covid was because “some aspects of a visit can only be done on site, so we will continue to visit in person where we can”.
Ofsted has been contacted for comment.