19 March 2014

The think tank Policy Exchange has produced a report on Ofsted and the future of school inspections entitled “Watching the Watchmen”.

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said its proposals offer “an intelligent way forward for inspection” since “inspection outcomes are currently too random and subjective”.

Other teachers’ unions agree that the report highlights many of the concerns they hold.

In particular, following consultations with Heads, the report concludes that many Ofsted inspectors do not have the necessary skills or experience to judge schools.

It suggests that inspectors should pass an accreditation exam, including how to interpret data, and should have “recent and relevant” teaching experience, and it is calling for fewer inspectors to be employed by private firms.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said schools have been concerned for a long time about the “variable quality of contracted inspectors”, the “lack of validity, reliability and transparency of the inspection process” plus the “flawed conclusions often drawn from lesson observations”.

The Policy Exchange also calls for lesson observations to be abandoned but this has been criticised by the unions as it would fail to recognise the perspectives of teachers and other members of the school workforce.

Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said her union would like to see Ofsted’s national system of inspection replaced by “profession-led local systems of accountability and improvement”, overseen by a national body such as Ofsted.