NEWS • VIEWS • INFORMATION • ADVICE
another stick with which to beat teachers
Accountability and inspection are two of the main drivers of teacher stress and workload. The newly revised Ofsted framework offers no hope of improvement.
Ofsted is being used to force through the Coalition Government’s education reforms, the NASUWT has told Ministers ahead of the planned introduction of a revised framework for school inspection.
The revised inspection system is due to be introduced from January 2012, with the new framework having been finalised in September 2011. The NASUWT believes the planned changes are unnecessary, coming only two years since the previous revision of the inspection system. The Union also contends that the changes are politically rather than educationally motivated, with the intention of reducing Ofsted’s independence and objectivity as a way to remove proper scrutiny of the impact of Coalition policies.
THE PLANNED CHANGES IN BRIEF
Inspections will be refocused to concentrate on four key areas: pupil achievement, teaching quality, leadership and management quality, and pupil behaviour and safety.
NASUWT’s view The revised framework focuses predominantly on attainment in reading, literacy and numeracy. This fails to recognise the important contribution other subjects can make to pupils’ learning and encourages a narrow focus on ‘core’ subjects. Schools’ performance in tackling bullying, promoting good behaviour and closing the attainment gap between students are all critical issues, but are being left to schools.
The revised framework fails to encompass assessment of the quality of measures to support the wellbeing and safety of staff and the quality of schools’ work to challenge discrimination and promote equality.
More scrutiny of teachers
Inspectors will be required to spend more time observing and judging the quality of lessons.
NASUWT’s view The Union is opposed to plans to increase the amount of lesson observation during inspections. The continual questioning of teachers’ and headteachers’ professionalism and skills and the relentless monitoring of their performance undermines teachers’ confidence and skews schools’ focus towards what is inspected rather than on meeting the needs of their pupils.
Rather than spending more time inspecting teachers, Ofsted should examine more closely the quality and effectiveness of management practice in schools. The wider picture of how schools support and develop their teaching staff should be inspectors’ main focus.
Ofsted should set a clear expectation that all schools should enable teachers to have access to high-quality professional development within designated working hours.
‘Outstanding’ schools will be exempted from regular inspection, while schools judged to be inadequate or not making sufficient progress will be forced to become academies.
NASUWT’s view Schools are accountable to the public and there should be no circumstances where they should be exempt from inspection. For the Coalition to offer exemption as a ‘bribe’ to schools is inappropriate and in fact is meaningless given that the Secretary of State can change, at will, the criteria for deeming schools to be outstanding.
Schools will be allowed to determine their own process of self evaluation.
NASUWT’s view The Secretary of State made a grand and empty gesture of ‘abolishing’ the school self-evaluation form, claiming he was reducing bureaucracy. He failed to point out that the form was not mandatory and that abolishing the form didn’t remove the requirement for schools to self-evaluate.
Now, rather than using the Ofsted-generated form, schools are developing their own, in some cases putting in more bureaucratic and workload intensive processes.
Open to abuse
Parents will have the power to trigger an inspection if they have concerns about their child’s school.
NASUWT’s view Allowing a lobby of parents to trigger an inspection is a proposal open to abuse. This allows those with an axe to grind or a grievance against the school to pressure and threaten school management. The NASUWT is concerned about the absence of any safeguards to prevent abuse.
While the NASUWT accepts the need for schools to be accountable, it believes that these plans will reinforce the punitive model of Ofsted inspections.
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