School inspectors’ judgement of lessons is so unreliable ‘you would be better off flipping a coin’, according to the think tank Policy Exchange.
As part of a far reaching set of reforms to improve the way schools are inspected, Watching the Watchmen calls for the usual brief classroom visits by inspectors to be ditched in all routine school inspections.
The report found that observations made by inspectors are often unreliable, with only a 50/50 chance of their judging a lesson to be of the same standard as data on pupil progress shows it to be. It also raised serious concerns over the quality of inspectors, claiming that many lack the skills to analyse data, or possess the necessary specialist knowledge “to make a fair judgment”.
Jonathan Simons, who wrote the report, said: “At the moment a team of external observers watching a handful of lessons can make a judgment on the quality of teaching which trumps the view of the school itself. More needs to be done to drive up the quality of inspectors. Heads and teachers must feel confident that the person running their eye over their school is a specialist, preferably with recent teaching experience.”
The report calls for a new two-stage inspection system, where all state schools would face a ‘short inspection’ lasting one day every two years. Any school that falls below ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ would face a second ‘tailored inspection’, with twice as many inspectors assessing it as under the current system.
Ofsted’s Michael Claddingbowl said that parents will always expect inspectors to spend time in the classroom. “Inspectors also take account of the school’s own views of teaching, undertake joint evidence gathering with senior leaders, look at children’s work and teachers’ marking, discuss test and examination results, and talk to parents, pupils and staff.”
Do you think the harsh criticism of Ofsted and its inspectors is well founded? What’s your own experience of inspections?