The Education Select Committee published a report
about Ofsted in March 2011. Here is a summary of its recommendations:
1. Ofsted should be split into two: the Inspectorate for Education and the Inspectorate for Children’s Care.
2. Ofsted’s remit should be clearer – there is confusion as to whether it is a regulatory and inspection body, or an improvement agency.
3. The new inspectorates should be independent of the Department for Education (DfE).
4. There should be greater transparency concerning contracts with and performance of companies (Tribal Group, Serco and CfBT Education Trust) who undertake inspection on Ofsted’s behalf.
5. Ofsted’s credibility is undermined because too few inspectors have recent and relevant experience of the settings they inspect.
6. More needs to be done to ensure that inspectors are able to develop front line skills and experience. More practitioners, possibly from local authorities and school leaders, should be seconded to Ofsted.
7. Unannounced inspections should be the norm.
8. The Committee welcomed the “cessation” of inspections of outstanding schools.
9. A new “stuck” grade should be introduced for “persistently satisfactory schools”.
10. The streamlined, proposed framework should be adopted although there should be “greater clarity” on what the four categories include.
11. Teachers should be less hobbled by bureaucracy but Ofsted should still provide the self-evaluation forms and guidance for heads and governers who can then use these if they wish.
12. The committee welcomed “reassurances” that progression as well as raw attainment is included in Ofsted reports. Progression and efforts made to ensure pupils of all abilities make progress should be given equal prominence with other key measures.
The Government has acted on some recommendations but not others – Ofsted is still “too big to discharge its functions as efficiently as smaller, more focussed and specialist organisations might.” The “confusion” over Ofsted’s remit has actually increased together with concerns about Ofsted’s independence especially since Ofsted was quick to parachute into the "improving" Downhills school and declare it failing after Mr Gove had earmarked the school for academy conversion.
The Select Committee’s concerns about transparency of contracts with firms undertaking inspections do not seem to have been tackled. The quality and consistency of inspectors was one of the concerns of NAHT members reported in TES (4 May, not available on-line).
No notice inspections have become “almost no notice”. Schools will be warned of impending inspections the afternoon before Ofsted arrives – Ofsted heeded heads’ logistical concerns about no notice inspections.
The Select Committee’s report appeared before OECD* warnings about reducing inspections of schools judged outstanding – such schools might become complacent.
The category of “Persistently satisfactory” has been expanded to include all schools judged “grade 3” whether “persistently satisfactory” or not. It’s a case of “one strike and you’re out”. Grade 3 schools will be labeled “requires improvement”. Fortunately, plans to make Grade 3 schools eligible for forced academy conversion have been dropped – a welcome sign, perhaps, that the DfE is holding back on enforced conversion. Perhaps it realizes that such centralized diktats run counter to democracy.
*OECD Economic Survey of the UK 2011, not available freely on the internet. Details about how to get a copy are here