Memorandum from NASUWT (OFS 10)
1. Further to your recent letter inviting
written submissions to the Education and Skills Select Committee
on the work of OFSTED.
2. NASUWT asserts that there are undoubted
advantages in a system of rigorous quality management of education
3. However, there has been a massive increase
in inspection activity within the pre- and post-16 system which
has engendered confusion, complexity, duplication and overload.
4. This burden is increased further by the
introduction of unnecessary and highly bureaucratic regimes of
self-evaluation which are not yet proven in terms of their efficacy.
Existing models of self-evaluation tend to be time-consuming,
and require a range of skills, which are not immediately available
in all schools. The hidden costs associated with the conduct of
self-evaluation are considerable and neither does this mechanism
deliver a desirable or rigorous level of public accountability.
This may equally be the case in respect of OFSTED's own model
5. There are substantial direct and hidden
costs associated with the current inspection regimes which is
not matched by the benefits of inspection.
6. The case for some sort of independent
audit system designed to make schools accountable and to facilitate
educational and organisational improvement is not at issue.
7. Instead, the underlying question that
is addressed is whether the most appropriate system is in place.
8. The majority of independent research
is broadly critical of the design, operation and the impact of
OFSTED inspections as they operate currently. In spite of recent
reforms in the inspection framework major concerns remain about
the scope of OFSTED's role in defining, guiding and carrying out
the different functions of quality management. The connections
between inspection and improvement are still far from clear.
9. NASUWT is not opposed to an inspection
process. However, the process should be supportive as well as
inspectorial. The Association acknowledges that some progress
has been made under the good offices of the present Chief Inspector.
However, there is more that could be done.
10. The Association proposes the following
changes to the inspection system:
(i) Rationalise the various inspections frameworks
in a way which delivers real benefits for schools and colleges
and which minimises the burdens on institutions;
(ii) Replace the current private contracting
system with a smaller, permanent group of professional, qualified
and trained inspectors who have recent and relevant experience
(iii) Introduce agreed criteria for identifying
those schools with problems and where an inspection is appropriate,
working within a newly agreed framework;
(iv) Provide specialist advisers to work
closely with LEA inspectors to support school improvement;
(v) Abolish the grading system;
(vi) Ensure that non-statutory requirements
are not included in the inspection process;
(vii) Abandon the proposal to undertake surveys
of student opinion since it is flawed on ethical and methodological
grounds. Neither is this process likely to add tangible gains
to the inspection process. Moreover, this development will undermine
any budding confidence teachers are likely to have in the purpose
and operation of inspection;
(viii) Introduce an independent body to which
OFSTED would be accountable;
(ix) Introduce a fully independent appeals
body with powers of redress.
11. There are further critical issues to
be addressed in respect of:
(i) the relationship between school inspection,
self-evaluation and performance management;
(ii) the role of OFSTED in assuring social
inclusion and anti-discrimination;
(iii) the quality of the school inspections
process and its implementation;
(iv) the standard of reports;
(v) the impact of the OFSTED Self-Evaluation
Framework in schools, with particular regard to:
(a) the time and resources it requires;
(b) the training implications for teachers
(c) how flexibly it responds to different
schools in different contexts;
(d) its impact upon school development
(e) the extent to which it constitutes
self-inspection rather than self-evaluation.
As part of the Association's submission to the
Select Committee, I have forwarded to you copies of the Association's
recently published reports and commentaries in respect of the
work of OFSTED.
Should you require any additional information
in respect of the Association's response, please contact Patrick
Roach, Assistant Secretary for Policy and Equality.
Nigel de Gruchy