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The dreaded âOâ word can make even the most experienced teachers take a sharp intake of breath. The watchdog ensures schools and childcare providers are held accountable for standards in education. The very idea of Ofsted grades however, has been hotly contested over the years and the profession is now looking to Ofsted Chief, Sir Michael Wilshawâs successor, Amanda Spieman and the direction she will take.
Under Wilshaw, Ofsted grading has already undergone change with âsatisfactoryâ being replaced with ârequires improvement.â Revealed in 2012, Wilshaw said that âsatisfactoryâ was âfrankly not good enough.â As Chief Inspector, he wanted to confront âcomplacencyâ to drive standards up in schools. Many saw the move as a way for âunderperformingâ schools to be forced into academy status.
In March 2015, the General Secretary of the NAHT union, called for an overhaul of the Ofsted system, favouring a straightforward âgood/requires improvementâ judgement. In line with Ofstedâs National Director of Schools, Hobby stated that a regulator is not in a position to determine the excellence of schools and instead called for âpeer reviewsâ. Ofsted could then act as a moderator. Experienced practitioners would be in a better position to support development in schools, rather than providing a label, and could potentially create a âself-improving system.â
Amanda Spielman, who will succeed Wilshaw in January, has already sparked discussions about removing the âoutstandingâ grade. The grade has been criticised for being misleading and for âputting unnecessary pressure on improving schools.â
Parents and carers looking to Ofsted grades as a way to choose their childrenâs school, are arguably led to believe âoutstandingâ means the provider will be outstanding in all areas, when this is not the case. Itâs also a difficult measure to uphold, and as such schools are omitted from inspection for a few years, some are concerned that parents and carers are therefore given out of date information.
More recently, Director of NAHT Edge, James Bowen, has called for the grades to be scrapped altogether. Bowen argues that schools have their own strengths and weaknesses that are more complicated than a single grade offers. He suggests a âsystem that evaluates a wide range of aspectsâ and a discussion about areas of strength and development, rather than a âjudgement.â
In the meantime, Spielmanâs suggestion that she may remove the top judgement, has been widely welcomed by the profession. Some, like Bowen, hope she âdoes not stop there.â
Do you think Ofsted grades should be removed altogether? Is removing âoutstandingâ a step in the right direction? Get in touch:
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