The tragic news of the death of a headteacher in Reading should shock everyone involved in education.
But it should not take a shock such as this to progress change to the accountability systems in schools and colleges.
The current system of assessment that means our children are formally measured in 5 out of 7 years in primary school, including within months of first beginning education, is unnecessary, drives workload and stress, and puts pressure on schools to always achieve, even when that is not in a child’s best interests.
Similarly, the inspection system is designed to focus on achievement. It looks at pupil progress against data targets, it looks at achievement and compares it to other schools – regardless of the context – and it then grades schools with just one or two words.
To be clear, the purpose of Ofsted is not to help schools to be the best they can, according to its own purpose statement:
“We inspect and regulate thousands of organisations and individuals providing education, training and care – from childminders to training providers, schools to local authorities – and we share what we find.
“We report directly to Parliament, parents, carers and commissioners.”
There is no mention of the teachers and leaders, support staff and children whose lives are turned upside down by such a brutal system.
Over the years, Ofsted has changed the way that it approaches inspection. There are no specialist inspectors who know the phase or subject inside out, and this means that the inspection can be flawed before it has begun.
There are no allowances made for large schools, small schools, schools with a high level of deprivation or poverty, and this means that schools which struggle are more likely to be awarded a lower grade, further demoralising staff. In some cases, it is worse.
Inspections place a huge workload burden on all staff before, during and after inspection. This, on top of an already unsustainable workload,must change.
- We have been calling for the inspection system to be reformed.
- We believe that inspection – in its current form – is not fit for purpose.
- We believe that inspection should work for the school community and provide the necessary improvement advice.
- We want to see an end to one-word outcomes.
- We will continue to work with the Government and the inspectorate to achieve these goals.
You can read here the letter that we sent to the Secretary of State in March 2023 in response to the tragic death of Ruth Perry.
The response from the Secretary of State (May 2023).
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