June 22, 2024

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Ofsted school inspections ‘still a risk to life’

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Ofsted’s school inspection regime is “dangerous” and remains a “risk to life” for teachers, a school leaders’ union has warned today in response to a major consultation.

The NAHT issued this warning in its submission to the watchdog’s Big Listen exercise gauging views on the future of inspection.

The union also repeated its call for single-word inspection judgements to be scrapped and said there should be an immediate pause to Ofsted’s graded inspections.

The Big Listen consultation was launched by new Ofsted chief inspector Sir Martyn Oliver in March.

It came after a coroner ruled that an Ofsted inspection had contributed to the death of headteacher Ruth Perry. She took her own life in January 2023 after an inspection that downgraded her school from Ofsted’s top rating to its lowest.

Warning over Ofsted school inspections

The NAHT has today published a summary of its submission to Ofsted’s Big Listen.

The union said it is “demanding far-reaching and fundamental reform, as the dangerous inspection regime remains a risk to life for teachers and leaders”.

“The Big Listen was triggered after the tragic death of primary school headteacher Ruth Perry. NAHT is clear that in its current format, the inspection regime continues to threaten the physical and mental health of teachers and school leaders,” it added.

“While this immediate threat to professionals continues, NAHT has issued an urgent call for an immediate pause to graded inspections and a permanent end to single-word judgments.”

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: ”Ofsted still has a long way to go to restore credibility within the education profession. Leaders and teachers have been traumatised by the inspection regime and its continued use of reductive single-word judgments.”

The NAHT also said it is troubled by what it describes as “premature statements” made by the Department for Education defending the single-word judgments, which the union claims undermine the independence of the inspectorate’s consultation.

Mr Whiteman added: “Many are worried that the Department for Education has seemingly sought to undermine the consultation by stubbornly reiterating its support for single-phrase judgements whilst the process is still ongoing. This sort of overtly political interference is deeply unhelpful.”

In its Big Listen response, the NAHT also reiterated its call for a longer warning period for inspections – of at least 48 hours – and for all inspectors to have experience of the school phase they are inspecting, be it primary, secondary or special.

The union added that “it is not appropriate for an inspector with experience in the later years of secondary education to inspect, for example, an infant school”.

It also expressed concerns about Ofsted’s complaints process, saying that more must be done to ensure that the inspectorate is accountable and that leaders and teachers can challenge poor inspection practice.

Mr Whiteman said he was now urging Sir Martyn to “listen carefully to what the profession is telling him, particularly when it comes to the use of harmful single-phrase judgements”.

“When the Big Listen reports back, Ofsted must be bold and embrace the deep, far-reaching reform the inspectorate desperately needs,” the general secretary added.

Ofsted said it is not commenting on individual submissions to the Big Listen.

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.

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