How Should Ofsted Reform Itself?

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How far Ofsted is prepared to hide from accountability behind the threat of costs to children?

Only 19% of parents read a full report (YouGov), yet every week, Ofsted carry out hundreds of inspections; use machine learning algorithms to predict which schools to inspect; police their own complaints process and then publish the results online.

Value for money?

With extortionate bonuses being paid, we have to question if Ofsted are value for money to the taxpayer? A public consultation in January 2019 will ask for views on a new inspection framework to be in place for September 2019. How much of what Ofsted do to drive curriculum preferences remains to be seen, and with an Ofsted narrative exacerbating teacher mental health and teacher attrition, many key figures in education are calling for an end to high-stakes inspection outcomes.

Evidence-led, or ignoring the evidence?

It is not enough for Amanda Spielman to claim that “everything we do should be valid, reliable and evidence based” (2018: 2). Recent research from NFER (Sep 2018) highlighted that inspection evaluation doesn’t feature in Finland and Singapore. Is this why they perform better?

With hundreds of schools exempt from inspection – some for up to ten years – and many celebrating the machine whilst others fall to the sword, we have to ask ourselves, “Is Ofsted listening to all feedback?” (they do not like to hear).

More harm than good?

According to the Department for Education’s website, Ofsted are independent, impartial and are “a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection.” Its independence from government is certainly questionable.

If that is the case, the evidence base for Ofsted’s judgements needed to be spelled out in greater detail. For example, “Several lessons were jointly observed … Inspectors spoke with staff, parents and pupils …”

Well, to who, how many, for how long and why? The National Audit Office recommends guidance on sample size: when reporting the results of a sample it is important to cover several key facts:

  • the sample size
  • the sample selection methodology
  • the estimates resulting from the sample and
  • the precision and confidence intervals for the estimates. (NAO, 2001.)

Coincidentally, the National Audit Office found that Ofsted does not know whether “its school inspections are having the intended impact of raising standards and improving lives” (NAO, 2018: 9.)

A key question for some schools …

What I would like to know is, will Ofsted continue to police their own complaints process?


If Ofsted continue to monitor its own policies, we therefore must ask the difficult question, “How far Ofsted is prepared to hide from accountability behind the threat of costs to children?”

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