Union calls for local inspection teams to replace Ofsted

One of the big three classroom unions has called for a radical reform of the Ofsted inspection system, which would include the abolition of overall grades for schools.

A report by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) instead suggests inspections highlight school strengths, areas for improvement and provide schools with a ‘mutually agreed action plan.’

It says it wants a “significant change in culture” that would see inspection teams having a supportive “continual relationship” with schools that only occasionally led to full inspections.

The union’s general secretary Dr Mary Bousted claimed that “fundamental reform” of inspections is needed, and that ATL’s model answers “many criticisms of current Ofsted inspections”.

She said: “We propose an inspection system that is tailored to school improvement, proportionate in its impact and works with, not against, the teaching profession.”

Highlighted in the report are issues of teacher workload and stress. In a survey last year, ATL found that four in 10 members had noticed a rise in mental health problems among colleagues in the past two years; six in 10 cited inspections were a factor in staff mental health.

The report asks that any future reform of inspections should be “defined by what is right for pupils in a given school, not by centrally-determined criteria chosen because they are easy to measure, nor by benchmarks or a focus for short-term political or media appeasement.

“Its nature would be supportive not adversarial; advisory not dictatorial; empowering not punitive.”

Last week, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he would take teachers’ concerns about the variable quality of inspections to Ofsted. Meanwhile, the Conservatives, it has been reported, are considering a radical reform of the watchdog if they form the next government.

In April Dr Bousted said Ofsted had become a “laughing stock” among teachers. It was unfit to reform itself but was “so damaged, so tarnished that it has to be radically and completely transformed”, she told her members.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Once we have inspected a school we provide an overall grade based on the behaviour and safety of pupils, the quality of teaching and the achievement of pupils, among other criteria.

“We believe this gives an accurate reflection of the school’s standards, and provides clarity for parents, pupils and the school itself. Inspection reports set out the rationale for overall judgements.”

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