UK

Majority of teachers believe Ofsted inspections are inaccurate – report

A poll, commissioned by the Beyond Ofsted inquiry, found that nearly two in three teachers did not think the outcome of their most recent Ofsted inspection accurately reflected their school (Ben Birchall/PA)
A poll, commissioned by the Beyond Ofsted inquiry, found that nearly two in three teachers did not think the outcome of their most recent Ofsted inspection accurately reflected their school (Ben Birchall/PA) A poll, commissioned by the Beyond Ofsted inquiry, found that nearly two in three teachers did not think the outcome of their most recent Ofsted inspection accurately reflected their school (Ben Birchall/PA)

The majority of teachers believe Ofsted inspections are inaccurate, a survey suggests.

More than nine in 10 (92%) teachers surveyed agreed that Ofsted is not a “reliable and trusted arbiter of standards”, according to a report by an inquiry into the future of school inspection.

The poll, commissioned by the Beyond Ofsted inquiry, found that nearly two in three (62%) teachers did not think the outcome of their most recent inspection accurately reflected their school.

Even in schools judged to be “good” or “outstanding”, the majority (58%) of teachers did not think the rating from the education watchdog was fair.

The Beyond Ofsted inquiry was launched in April amid calls for the inspectorate to revamp its school ratings system – which uses one-word judgments – following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry in January.

Work-related suicide
Work-related suicide A photograph of headteacher Ruth Perry attached to the railings of John Rankin Schools in Newbury, Berkshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Her family say Ms Perry took her own life after an Ofsted report downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

Her death is the subject of an inquest due to start at the end of this month.

The survey, of 6,708 teachers in England between March and May, found that 89% disagreed with the statement that Ofsted inspections are “a valid method of monitoring performance and holding schools to account”.

The study, which was carried out by UCL Institute of Education researchers and funded by the National Education Union (NEU), found that nearly three in four (74%) respondents described their experience with Ofsted as negative.

Lord Jim Knight, chair of Beyond Ofsted and a former schools minister, said: “The strength of feeling about the failings of the current system is clearly universal across the teaching profession.

“Our aim is to identify what is needed to make it fairer and more effective.”

The inquiry, which was set up to develop a set of principles for underpinning a better inspection system and proposals for an alternative approach, will publish its recommendations later this month.

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the NEU, said: “The current inspection regime is a blunt instrument which fails to engage with the realities in schools.

“Ofsted’s four stark grades are clearly inadequate and cannot take into account the unique context a particular school may face, and its achievements within that context. The way we inspect schools needs to change.”

Tom Middlehurst, inspection specialist for the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “This research could hardly be more damning and shows that new chief inspector Sir Martyn Oliver has a mountain to climb in building trust in the inspection system when he starts his term of office in January.

“The key action needed is removal of the use of blunt, single-phrase judgments which are punitive and counterproductive; ensuring greater consistency among inspection teams – because at the moment schools and colleges feel inspections are a lottery; and establishing an independent review process which has the power to overturn judgments.”

In June, Ofsted announced changes to improve inspection arrangements and reduce pressures on teachers and school leaders following the death of Ms Perry.

Last week, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who was head of Ofsted between 2012 and 2016, told MPs that the watchdog’s one-word judgments need “to go”.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Children only get one chance at education, and inspection helps make sure that education standards are high for all children.

“After every inspection, no matter what the outcome, we ask schools whether they believe the inspection will help them improve. Nine out of 10 say it will.

“We work constructively with schools, in the best interests of their pupils.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Ofsted has a crucial role driving up standards and ensuring children are safe in school.

“We have a rigorous inspection regime which considers a wide range of different factors, including test assessment and exam results, when determining how schools are graded and provide parents with the confidence they need to choose the right school for their child.

“It is crucial that the accountability arrangements continue to develop and evolve, and we remain committed to working with Ofsted to do this.”