Ofsted should have no contact with schools, which should instead conduct “self evaluation”, an inquiry set up to find a new inspectorate model has proposed.
Beyond Ofsted, chaired by former schools minister Lord Jim Knight and sponsored by the National Education Union (NEU), launched in April to “develop a set of principles for underpinning a better school inspection system”.
Recommendations, published today, follow criticism of the supposedly independent inquiry after it published a biased survey earlier this month which was heavily critical of the inspectorate.
Knight said today’s proposals were “designed to restore trust and address the intensification of leader and teacher workload, while reforming a system which is ineffective in its role of school improvement”.
The education committee is currently conducting its own inquiry into Ofsted’s work with schools, following heightened scrutiny of the watchdog.
Here’s how Beyond Ofsted says the new model would work…
Schools would quality assure themselves …
Beyond Ofsted said it considered evidence from survey and focus groups, international comparisons, research literature, comments from its advisory board and other stakeholders.
Under its model, schools would conduct an annual self-evaluation, or ‘school performance review’ (SPR), with plans for improvement.
The content of the review would be based on national guidance, with room for schools to add or adapt this “according to context”.
It would focus on areas such as pupil and staff mental health and wellbeing and “a broad and balanced” curriculum and be “validated” by a school improvement partner (SIP) from the trust or local authority.
While the action plan would be published, it wouldn’t be graded and schools would not be held accountable by the DfE or Ofsted.
… But MATs would be inspected by Ofsted
School groups would be inspected by Ofsted every three to five years, with a focus on their leadership and governance and “capacity for accurate self-evaluation”.
Inspections of governance would be published, but without a single-word judgment, with Ofsted instead able to “recommend areas for improvement and further support”.
But if there was a “significant failure”, an interim executive body could be imposed to replace the governance body.
Safeguarding inspections would be separate
While Labour has outlined proposals to introduce a new annual review of safeguarding, separate to routine school inspections, it has said this would remain within the remit of Ofsted.
Current HMCI Amanda Spielman said this would be “much more expensive and complicated” because the government would “have to make something four times the size” of Ofsted’s current school inspection operation to roll out the proposals.
But under Beyond Ofsted’s model, safeguarding inspections would be conducted “under the governance of a national safeguarding body”.
The report added that this would then become the responsibility of local authorities when they are “deemed ready”, due to a “lack of resourcing over the last decade”.
It added that failure to meet safeguarding requirements – which would include legal frameworks such as the Equalities Act – would “require immediate responses” from school leaders.
A “follow-up check” would also be in place before outcomes were published.
Ofsted would have no direct contact with schools
The report recommends removing Ofsted “from direct contact with schools and reforming it to operate at the level of school group-level governance”.
Instead of routinely inspecting schools, inspectors roles would change to focus on the “governance of, and capacity for, school improvement”.
They would also “respond to” any challenges faced in this area, including in the relationship between a school and its SIP.
Training and relevant expertise would be required to understand the context of the school and “good school governance”.
The watchdog would also conduct research and thematic reviews to “inform government policy and Ofsted”.
But it would be “fully independent” of the government, so that it can hold minsters to account.
Inspections should be paused
The report also recommends an “immediate pause” to routine and inspections, although parents would retain the right to call for a school-level inspection “if concerns are raised”.
This would “allow time to reset and regain the trust of the profession”.