NASUWT comments on the Policy Exchange report on Ofsted

Commenting on the publication of the think tank Policy Exchange report on Ofsted, ‘Watching the Watchmen’, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“In many respects the Report identifies problems with Ofsted which the NASUWT has been aware of for a long time and has indicated on many occasions.

“Teachers and school leaders have long held deep concerns about the lack of validity, reliability and transparency of the inspection process.

"The specific points raised in the Report about the variable quality of contracted inspectors, the flawed conclusions often drawn from lesson observations, and the extent to which fear of inspection dominates schools are all issues that every teacher will recognise.

“However, the solutions proposed by Policy Exchange would, if implemented, create as many problems as they aim to solve.

“In particular, the idea that inspectors can form secure judgements about the quality of education provided by a school through the narrow prism of performance data would actually exacerbate the pressures that league tables and floor targets create.

"These already lead to a narrowing of the curriculum which is at the heart of the serious flaws within the current inspection system.

“Similarly, the claim that inspectors could gather all the information they need for most schools through a brief discussion with head teachers, many of whom have no current direct teaching experience, fails to recognise the critical importance of the perspectives of teachers and other members of the school workforce.

“No-one should deny the importance of and necessity for an impartial, developmental and supportive system of school accountability. However, many of the solutions proposed in the Report fail to grasp the fundamental issues inherent in the school system. They would simply serve to replace one high stakes form of school accountability with another.

“A major concern for teachers is that the accountability framework already drives schools to put pressure on teachers to focus on meeting the needs of inspection rather than the needs of the children and young people they teach.

“One of the criticisms made in the Report is that Ofsted has impeded the Coalition Government’s free schools and academies agenda. On the basis of this erroneous comment alone, teachers and school leaders could be forgiven for suspecting that there is a hidden agenda beneath Policy Exchange’s call for reforms to the Ofsted framework – especially when Policy Exchange, a think tank set up by the Secretary of State, makes the call."