‘We are not convinced’ – leaders’ union ASCL won’t back #PauseOfsted campaign

Geoff Barton

The Association of School and College Leaders will not back calls for school staff to stop working as Ofsted inspectors because its leaders are “not convinced” it’s the best way forward.

The #PauseOfsted campaign, launched by Headteachers’ Roundtable chair Stephen Tierney at the think tank’s annual conference last week, calls for those working part-time as Ofsted inspectors to withdraw their labour.

It’s not our role to give unsolicited advice over professional decisions

The campaign is aimed at persuading the watchdog, which relies heavily on the work of serving school staff, to reconsider it approach to inspection, which leaders claim is failing to take into account the difficult circumstances faced by some schools.

Last week, the National Education Union backed the campaign, calling on its members who work as Ofsted inspectors to stop doing so.

But ASCL’s general secretary Geoff Barton said his union would not follow suit, despite sharing many of the concerns of those involved in the campaign.

“We won’t be recommending that members quit as Ofsted inspectors because it’s not our role to give unsolicited advice over professional decisions, and because we are not convinced that this action is the best way forward to create a better system,” he said.

“We share concerns about the bluntness of Ofsted inspection judgements and the impact this can have on schools and school leaders, but our focus is on proposing solutions to these issues.”

The National Association of Headteachers, England’s largest school leaders’ union, has not said whether or not it will support the campaign. However it said inspection will be “one of the main items on the agenda” at its next national executive committee meeting in March.

Paul Whiteman, the union’s general secretary, added: “In our regular meetings with Ofsted we urge them to listen carefully to the profession and take on board its views.

“Inspection should be proportionate, offering reliable and fair judgements that schools, leaders, teachers, children and parents can have confidence in.”

The NASUWT union, which like the NEU represents mostly classroom teachers, is also not supporting the campaign, and will not ask its members to withdraw from inspection duties.

“The NASUWT remains clear that the revisions to the Ofsted framework address important concerns raised by teachers and school leaders, including staff workload and wellbeing, the management of behaviour and ensuring that the use of assessment data in schools is proportionate and supports learning effectively,” said Chris Keates, the union’s acting general secretary.

Schools Week understands that no Ofsted inspectors have officially resigned as a result of the campaign. However, it is anticipated that some will or already have declined to accept more work via their existing contracts.

Tierney informed Friday’s conference that he had been contacted by one academy trust leader who said all five inspectors working within their organisation had withdrawn in response to the campaign.

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  1. Sounds a reasonable position from Mr Barton, except that ASCL have proposed NO solutions to the problems OFSTED is causing.

    Almost every week, representing ASCL, he complains about OFSTED in various publications, but proposes no actual action.

    He is acting like the teacher who tells a naughty pupil “I don’t like your behaviour”, but then never does anything about it. This type of response is worse than useless because it just encourages even worse behaviour. Every successful teacher knows this!

    I find this approach more than disappointing.

    If this is ASCL’s considered position, members should be demanding to know what ASCL’s proposed solution is to the damage being caused by OFSTED, and an explanation of exactly how they are going to put this solution into practice.

    I wish I was wrong, but lack of leadership like this is one of the major reasons why we are in this mess! Am happy to eat my words when I see ASCL’s action plan for reforming the school inspection process.

  2. Colin Richards

    I wonder whether ASCL’s muted response is because it has been upstaged by the Headteachers’ Roundtable initiative. Barton has been sidelined , is on the wrong side of history and doesn’t like it”