Ofsted ratings “meaningless and outmoded”

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ATL wants Ofsted to end its inspection system that gives schools an overall rating, claiming it should be radically overhauled.

This is not the first demand for Ofsted ratings to be reformed. Earlier this month a headteacher said that the ‘outstanding’ judgment carries too much weight and that the ‘inadequate’ rating should be replaced with ‘not good enough’, the Telegraph reports. New research shows that Ofsted’s tougher inspection regime may have contributed to the departure of one in four academy heads during the past year.

In a new report ATL says that the current system, with the one overall judgment of ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ does not reflect differences between and within schools. “The focus on a producing a single overall grade is meaningless and outmoded; data on pupil achievement in schools falling below current floor targets shows little difference between schools that Ofsted says ‘require improvement’ and those schools Ofsted has judged ‘good’,” the report says.

ATL’s alternative is for the inspection team to produce two documents which would be publicly available, setting out what is well done, where improvements could be made and any agreed action to be taken. “Both documents would have a clear focus on highlighting strengths, areas for improvement, steps the schools and its partners have agreed to take to address areas for improvement and sustain or boost strengths, including a monitoring timeline.”

Last week Ofsted’s Sean Harford repeated the watchdog’s intention to introduce frequent, shorter inspections of schools rated good, so that signs of decline can be spotted early and action taken. “The focus of these inspections will be on ensuring that the school continues to provide a good education, that leaders have identified key areas of concern, and that they are able to tackle them,” he said. “These shorter inspections, solidly based on a professional dialogue between school leadership and inspectors, will remove the ‘cliff-edge’, which we know can be a stressful experience for some.”

Do you agree that Ofsted’s system of giving schools an overall rating should be reformed and if so do you think their alternative would be better?

18 thoughts on “Ofsted ratings “meaningless and outmoded”

  1. Ofsted and/or external inspections, are an insult on the school and the classroom! What are head teachers for or governors ? Isn’t it their job to inspect and reinforce ?

    The Ofsted programme is a set up intent on making the education system in this country equal, or better, than those of other counties so that the UK can compete in the world market ….not necessarily to enhance the personal and spiritual needs of the individual student !
    It wants to turn out our kids as little soldiers of industry and commerce.
    It doesn’t want Athenians , it wants Spartans !

    It was spawned in the wake of the Thatcherite and monetarist upheaval that price tags everyone and everything , ergo the inspection system !

    We don’t need to modify Ofsted , we need to ban it !
    Do we really want our kids , like Chinese automatons , clicking and clunking behind their desks like cogs in some great socio-economic meat grinder ,or do, we want thinkers and doers, individuals who can be creative and build a better harmonious world for themselves and others ?
    The Soviet system is dead , let’s not resurrect it here in Britain !

  2. Ofsted judgements are being used to axe many good and experienced headteachers. At best inspections are a blunt instrument and they rarely understand the framework that an individual school works within. They couldn’t possibly be any different because a few visitors to a completely strange school cannot understand this in a day and a half. We should return to a system where we have local inspectors who’s brief is to support and help group of schools where they know the area, challenges and crucially the staff at the schools. The French system is like this and works well. We used to have this but have replaced it with a broken system that does nothing to support schools within the context that are working. It’s a shame, nobody in the profession goes to work to be a failure. Many teachers and leaders branded as a failure have gone on to be successful at another school. Such is the variance of judgement. It’s an awful system, led by people who are way too quick to judge and is leading us into a period of unprecedented losses in experienced teachers and leaders who have had enough of the pressure to meet narrow unrealistic targets. I wonder when the country will wake up and smell the roses. Perhaps when we have schools closing due to lack of staff or when schools are completely full of inexperienced people, the powers that be will take notice. Stuff Ofsted and all of it that follows, good teachers can choose another profession if they wish and many are because they are sick of the circus that teaching has become.

  3. Whoa Alfieris! Similar public sector bodies like hospitals and local authorities are inspected; schools should be no different. Otherwise the incentive to improve is reduced.
    Headteachers and Governors are not necessarily effective.

    At my last school the headmaster was asked to leave by the Chairman of the Board of Governors only after a poor Ofsted inspection; the staff had complained to the Chairman about him but without response. Often Boards are supine and the headteacher is all powerful.

    I sympathise with your wish that schools enhance the personal and spiritual needs of students but I don’t think that this needs to be at the expense of vocational skills. Oral, written and number skills matter both to the individual and to the employer and many of the students I talk to are keen to ensure that they are well prepared for the world of work.

    Whether we like it or not the UK does need to be able to compete in the world market or exports will fall. If exports fall then tax income will fall. If tax income falls then spending on the NHS, Education and the Arts will fall.

  4. There is plenty of data available these days – a small Ofsted team should crunch that and only come in to schools where the data indicates a problem. Would save the country a fortune.

  5. Sorry EPA. Makes no sense. Heads and governors self evaluate and improve their school and do not inspect. Ofsted inspects this to see how well this is working and identify areas of development as required. Not sure how Ofsted wants to produce machines? The Ofsted handbook covers many aspects such as getting ready for the next stage of education and developing wider skill and attributes necessary for life. There is no expectation that we produce clones. Schools receive millions of tax payer funding so need accountability.

  6. I do agree that schools do need to be accountable and that some external agency should be involved in checking that things are as they seem. However, I do think that Ofsted has become too confrontational and that the reduction of a schools strengths and weaknesses cannot be encompassed in one phrase. I think that there needs to be a professional dialogue between the checkers and the school and people working together to improve education in whatever setting it takes place. Unfortunately Ofsted seem to encourage the notion that a school’s strengths can be found by looking at exam figures or the number of children reaching a certain level. We all know that there are some schools working in very difficult situations doing a fantastic job whose numeric results do not reflect the hard work and progression of the children.

    I am not at all surprised that academy heads are leaving – they have a double whammy of inspections – from their academy chains who often set the most unrealistic targets imaginable and then from Ofsted. We are probably going to get to a point where the very best people will no longer put themselves forward as heads and that will be a tragedy for all.

  7. To frank s were you a teacher?
    You arrive at class, well prepared, materials in place and when asked how, not told to get on with the work set, they refuse. So Frank tell he how you would get them to do it. I’ve been there done that and carried the scars, broken ribs, kicked skins from dis functional kids from dis functional families; on benefits, several social workers, child psychologists, suffering from ADHD…….MFI, B&q….you name it. And if you challenge them well, we’ll get you done just wait and se. I’ lol bring my mam in to you, most likely because determining their father is well Impissible…even Mams nit sure. Read the previous statement, 1 in 4 academy heads forced out. Set up by which party? Just a reminder, those on benefits are draining money from the system, the high value of the pound is reducing our exports etc..

    As a governor of two schools in the past, one of whom I’m still chair and having to deal with trivial pupil, parent and ousted views, isinit about time we got behind our schools and staff and support them? Or are you too busy queuing to pick up your mobility car, state supplied and funded, your raft of benefits and the only time you rise before 3 pm when most schools are closing is when you have a doctors appointment to make sure you will still be able to claim?
    No job, no money, forced sterilisation and no Handouts. The system would be clearly sorted in one generation rather than having Jeremy Kyle have the last three generations on one show all claimants. Benefits are to help those who gave a genuine need and should not be treated as a profession.

    And the point is? Well below this tier are Ofsted inspectors. A retired teacher of 39 years, last 21 in special education dealing with all of the above. I can comment as I have first hand knowledge.

  8. Well frankly I was impressed with the Ofsted inspection on a senior school that my child attended. It actually highlighted all the areas I was concerned with within the school. The school have done everything to improve on those areas now and I am now happy to send my second child there, when before the inspection I was looking to move away and find a better school.

  9. I believe a body needs to be checking and rating schools yes, as all education should be the same whichever school children attend.
    However, I worked in an inadequate school and all our hard work and good practice, because there was some , was completely overlooked and we all became ‘ inadequate ‘.
    From that moment, everything changed.
    There we were living in hope. Staff had known some things needed changing, and we knew exactly what too. But we were not asked, instead we were blamed !
    Poor cpd, no vision , inconsistencies, all of them became even more blurry AFTER ofsted.
    Ofsted were no use, they threw this at us and walked off.
    Teachers are blamed for everything, teaching not consistently good , and this and that, basically, results didn’t matter , it was 20 minutes observations which labelled you bad or good.
    As someone who isn’t a performer ofsted pulled me apart, still I had good consistent record of
    progress in my class, none of that mattered.
    It is always so much easier to point the finger at someone than practise what you preach. I could be a good inspector. Many of them passed our threshold and the advice and or criticisms themselves were inconsistent ! What a farce. I don’t know one teacher who values the opinion of ofsted because it’s not constructive. Of course I know how it should be done according to ofsted but children are human beings, teachers aren’t machines and the pressure and accountability is completely out of range . As a teacher, you do what your boss tells you.
    Our boss blamed his teachers. That seemed acceptable. I think the checks should be cascaded.
    We get checked up on by our boss, our boss gets checked up on by ofsted. If we don’t perform to taste the it should be the boss’s responsibility. That’s how it would be in other jobs.
    I think this culture needs to stop discrediting their education staff by grading them like kids, and ask the questions to complacent governors and head teachers.
    So I hope one day ofsted will give way to a useful way of assessing schools
    ‘ overall effectiveness which supports their professionals . I had a dream ….

  10. Hallo,

    Do you know of a single teacher/support who enjoyed the OFSTED experience?

    How many perfectly able teachers do you know who left the profession – and should not have had?

    How many staff do you know who’s health was affected by an inspection?

    How many staff do you know who suffered nervous breakdowns due to OFSTED?

    Were there any suicides due to OFSTED inspections?

    Thank God I just about survived and am now retired from the profession!


  11. I believe Ofsted are a political tool, (read this as you like). They descend and pass judgement but don’t even understand plain English. “Satisfactory” means suitable, adequate and sufficient, but does not mean we cannot and should not achieve for better ! They deem schools as “good” which is about as descriptive as “nice”, and disappear for a while, (never long enough). They create a climate of fear (when will they arrive) and sometimes an excuse for unreasonable demands.
    They are destructive and not constructive.
    They should praise the positive and help where improvement is identified, not pass judgement and run away !

  12. I think that the secondary schools set as academies are very far from their another legal setting as businesses as the are not opened to the general idea of “world of business” and they struggle with their so called academic achievement as people can succeed academically mostly later in their life only if they get an “excellent” secondary education but when the obligatory education was covered into so called Academy as this leaves a big confusion for the society of parents when secondary teen like to tell you off as a parent, being helpful, by reasoning: “..but your education was not academic as my how you can know what is a square root of a number etc.”
    But after all the most of pressure is left on “older ones” whose secondary education, despite they went to the same school as their offspring, was not labelled as Academy but simply and easy the Secondary school but was giving a clear message about Obligatory Secondary Educational Institution to help families to educate their children equally and respectively to their age and abilities within a set of educational and ethical standards that should be set the same for all schools to easily compare and bring Measurable Standards for all schools ( as children in size very differ but that’s not why they go to school to grow physically as perhaps “educational products” as assumed under unqualified teachers or unqualified staff what is still possible nowadays…) also as the British holidays last three month on average to compare with other EU schools when these holidays lasts two month so there is a lot of pressure to manage already set standards within a British School Year!
    I could say that teachers here are the best paid holidaymakers by their employers and that primary and secondary students within their obligatory studies have so many holidays as university students in their academic year they are paying for!

  13. Teachers are professionals , as such they are self evaluating . Ofsted is a political commissariat whose brief is to drive our profession like a team of husky dogs over the barren plain of market forces !

    Ofsted , basically a cadre of merchants and money lenders, aim to conscript our children into regiments of corporate robo-workers to fight wars commercial and military. Everything and everyone is price tagged . Today’s school grades become tomorrows wage packets . Academic degrees are not an end in themselves but qualifications for status in the business world !

    Sure, we need to be evaluated but by professionals like ourselves not by raiding parties of political party henchmen !

    We teachers are such a docile lot ! When are we going to stand up and say ,” We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore ? “

  14. Ofsted now run schools -not Headteachers. They run them because of fear. In the past HMI did a good job in delivering inspections which were about the pupils and teaching. They had an agenda which was respected by the staff because they were genuine and not party to a wider political agenda. Also after an HMI visit the LEA would take on board any issues and provide support.
    An agency like Ofsted does not improve schools. It merely criticises and then disappears. It is out of control and not accountable. It is also very expensive. Those inspectors that are actually teachers or ex teachers would be better off going back into the classroom if they genuinely wanted to make a difference.

  15. The problem with inspectors is that they don’t know better than we teachers know. They have boxes to tick and see mistakes rather than appreciate efforts!

  16. Stephanie , what are you talking about ?
    I don’t consider myself overpaid as I work 60 hour weeks , have no family life all term and the only chance I get to do what other mums do all year are in the summer holidays. Why is it acceptable for a teacher to work all hours and be called overpaid all the time?
    I know that primary school teachers seem to count for nothing in this society, but secondary teachers never tell about all those weeks of exams where they teach half a timetable?
    When I worked in a supermarket, I was paid for my time , but then I walked away and forgot about work. As a teacher that never happens.

    Also my cousin teaches in France and they have 2 months in the summer and 2 week half terms. So please don’t discredit our hard work with stereotypes.

  17. Teachers should always be self evaluating but if that self evaluation is not good enough it needs saying. Likewise, where it is it needs saying. I would not like my child in a school that tells me it does everything well but then the evidence says otherwise and goes un-challenged . Having experience of Ofsted I have never remotely heard anything politically based. The concept of Ofsted may have a political basis but inspection teams do not.

  18. I agree that Ofsted inspection rating should be banned; if not banned then optional. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money. It’s like may of the )any) government policies/practices that has little relevance to improving quality of education. This service should be privatized and made optional as an advisory service only.

    Ofsted inspections are unfair and do not take into consideration where rejected, under-performing pupils are dumped in certain school whilst other schools cream their home grown product for their sixth form!

    Too much emphasis or powers are given to learners and the teachers are facilitator. Learners are informed that they own the learning but they do not care as the government are funding their courses and the government are with them if their learning do not happen! These learners are the cause of poor lesson observation grades result in poor teaching and learning. The entire education is a “trial & error” and still being “tried with errors”! and nothing has happened. Employers still thing people leaving schools and colleges with no skills that they thought they are getting from the learners.

    Apprenticeship programme is another attempt by the government to fix the problem but that has it’s own problems, one being paying apprentices £2-£3 per hour (if a bus transport cost £4-£5 one way plus £5 lunch totaling £18 per day and the apprentices receiving £21!); dump the learning to the employer lol… This is an embarassment to produce learners from a academic background, lateral thinkers, problem solvers, inventors and scientists not doers..

    The government making such policies affect our children future which they have no rights!

    The next problem is the schools’ recruitment policies and politics which is a disgrace; there is a lot of discrimination that goes on; all you need to look at is the ratio of male to female in the upper management, ethnicity breakdown of upper management, and quality of teachers employed… you will be surprised!!

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