ofsted grading in schools

The dreaded ‘O’ 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 Wilshaw’s successor, Amanda Spieman and the direction she will take.

Recent history

Under Wilshaw, Ofsted grading has already undergone change with ‘satisfactory’ being replaced with ‘requires improvement.’ Revealed in 2012, Wilshaw said that ‘satisfactory’ was ‘frankly not good enough.’ As Chief Inspector, he wanted to confront ‘complacency’ to drive standards up in schools. Many saw the move as a way for ‘underperforming’ 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 ‘good/requires improvement’ judgement. In line with Ofsted’s National Director of Schools, Hobby stated that a regulator is not in a position to determine the excellence of schools and instead called for ‘peer reviews’. 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 ‘self-improving system.’

Moving forward

Amanda Spielman, who will succeed Wilshaw in January, has already sparked discussions about removing the ‘outstanding’ grade. The grade has been criticised for being misleading and for ‘putting unnecessary pressure on improving schools.’

Parents and carers looking to Ofsted grades as a way to choose their children’s school, are arguably led to believe ‘outstanding’ means the provider will be outstanding in all areas, when this is not the case. It’s 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schools are omitted from inspection for a few years, some are concerned that parents and carers are therefore given out of date information.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 ‘system that evaluates a wide range of aspects’ and a discussion about areas of strength and development, rather than a ‘judgement.’

In the meantime, Spielman’s suggestion that she may remove the top judgement, has been widely welcomed by the profession. Some, like Bowen, hope she ‘does not stop there.’

Do you think Ofsted grades should be removed altogether? Is removing ‘outstanding’ a step in the right direction? Get in touch:

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