Last reviewed 20 November 2023
There are alternatives to England’s name and shame system, and an external assessor should be allowed to get to know a school’s unique context and advise accordingly.
This is the conclusion of former schools minister Lord Jim Knight in his 104-page report Beyond Ofsted: An Inquiry Into the Future of School Inspection.
The inspection process can be described as toxic, he argues, with the “high-stakes outcome” of being judged as Requiring Improvement or Inadequate contaminating the value that might be assigned to being judged as Good or Outstanding.
The NEU (National Education Union) commissioned and supported this independent report on the future of school inspection.
A poll carried out by the inquiry found that 62% of teachers did not think the outcome of their most recent inspection accurately reflected their school while 92% agreed that Ofsted is not a “reliable and trusted arbiter of standards”.
The inquiry found a deep distrust of the system rooted in a lack of consistency in the expertise of inspectors and the conduct/management of the inspection process. It noted strong support for the reform of Ofsted as, despite calling itself a force for improvement, it had several negative effects including on teacher wellbeing, school improvement and performance.
Every school should conduct its own self-evaluation, the inquiry report recommends, with this school performance review (SPR) being carried out under guidance developed by the Government in close cooperation with the whole sector.
Accountability will then be principally to parents and the wider community.
Schools should work with an external school improvement partner (SIP), delivering on an action plan, informed by the SPR. Schools in a trust might have a SIP appointed from within that trust. Others would use a SIP provided by their local authority.
The purposes of the school performance reviews are to enhance schools’ capacity for self-improvement and to provide information to interested parties, the report argues. It would not be the means by which a school would be held accountable by the Department for Education (DfE) or by Ofsted.
It is recommended that the role of inspectors change so that they focus on the governance of, and capacity for, school improvement and responding to any challenges faced including the relationship between the school and the school improvement partner.
“Our final recommendation is for an immediate pause of routine inspections to allow time to reset and regain the trust of the profession,” the report states.