Stories + Views
Is it time to call time on Ofsted?
Tribal, a firm employed to carry out Ofsted inspections, revealed that it doesn’t keep details of the backgrounds of its inspectors (TES 20 July 2012). This followed an earlier admission by Ofsted that it didn’t know how many HMI inspectors, who are directly employed by Ofsted, had experience of schools leadership or whether they had worked in secondaries or primaries.
Ofsted inspections are outsourced to three firms: Tribal, Serco and CfBT. These firms provide about 60% of the lead inspectors for schools. Serco told TES that all its inspectors were “experienced, fully trained and approved by Ofsted”. CfBT, which also runs a free school and is Lincolnshire County Council’s “preferred” sponsor for academies, refused to say how many of its inspectors had Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Tribal told TES it was still waiting for “clarification from Ofsted” about whether using lead inspectors without QTS could continue.
An Ofsted spokeswoman said that Ofsted didn’t keep the CVs of its HMIs or whether they had QTS. However, she did say that Ofsted could provide a “pen pic” of inspectors which would give their teaching experience. It’s not clear how this would be achieved if Ofsted records are incomplete.
This is another example of serious grievances about Ofsted. Others include:
1 Accusations that inspectors cut-and-pasted sections from one report into another.
2 Concerns by one lead inspector about Ofsted’s “frightening” new regime.
3 Dubious inspections such as those for Downhills Primary School which changed from “the school is making satisfactory progress in addressing the issues for improvement and in raising the pupils’ achievement” in September 2011 to “Inadequate” in January 2012 (Ofsted Watch carries the story in more details).
4 Newcastle College asking Ofsted inspectors to leave.
5 Constant carping by Ofsted, ministers and the media are leaving teachers demoralised.
6 File on Four’s investigation raised concerns about Ofsted.
7 Increased number of complaints about inspections.
Parents rely on Ofsted inspections when deciding where to send their children. Michael Gove uses inspection reports to enforce academy conversion. Adverse inspections impact in teachers’ careers. It’s essential, therefore, that Ofsted should be trusted. It’s increasingly becoming apparent that it cannot.