Fareham MP Suella Fernandes warns of ‘real concerns’ about Ofsted school inspections

Ofsted inspections have been criticised by MP Suella Fernandes
Ofsted inspections have been criticised by MP Suella Fernandes
St Thomas More's Primary School, Hooks Lane, Bedhampton. Image: Google Maps

Bedhampton school investigated by Department of Education after allegations of SATs foul-play

  • MP says there is too much focus on inspection
  • She says more time needs to be spent in the classroom
  • NUT says body should be abolished
3
Have your say

AN MP has called for reform of the way schools are inspected.

Suella Fernandes said Ofsted focused too much on exam results rather than looking at what went on every day in the classroom.

I think there are real concerns with the way they inspect the schools. It puts a lot of pressure on staff

Suella Fernandes

The Conservative MP for Fareham, who is a a member of the Education Select Committee, said: ‘There are real concerns about the way Ofsted inspects schools.

‘It puts a lot of pressure on staff and it doesn’t properly reflect the quality of the school.

‘The move to inspection based on data was one of Labour’s worst mistakes and it still needs to be put right.’

She added: ‘I’m particularly concerned that the expertise of inspectors is being lost in the current remodelling of the workforce and that is causing problems as we see increasing numbers of inspectors without subject experience.

‘You can’t inspect what you don’t know and Ofsted’s move away from subjects as the basis for inspection needs to be reversed.’

Miss Fernandes said the inspectors needed to have the right experience to be able to carry out inspections.

‘There has to be a proper balance between those with a teaching and headship background and the experienced inspectors in their own right.

‘We need to look more closely at how Ofsted is performing and make sure the inspection regime works better.

‘Inspection based purely on data rather than first-hand observation is a recipe for injustice and risks hitting honest heads rather than those who really need attention.

‘That must change, in my view. We need to embed the focus on rigour and knowledge-based teaching.

‘That means not only reforming the curriculum, as the government is rightly doing, but also looking at how teachers are trained and the orthodoxies that still hold sway in much of the educational establishment.

‘We should learn from what works and from the many excellent teachers there are – and ensure we replicate their success across the board.’

Amanda Martin, secretary of the Portsmouth branch of the National Union of Teachers, backed the call for reform.

She said: ‘The NUT thinks Ofsted should be abolished. We aren’t against accountability. Everybody should have accountability, but it’s the way it’s gone about.

‘It’s believed by Ofsted that you can’t have a good school if your results aren’t above the national average, that there must be something wrong.

‘It alienates teachers and puts immense pressure on them. It looks at results – it doesn’t take into account all the other aspects that impact on a school’s education.’

Ms Martin said it would be better if schools were inspected by local authorities and with self-evaluations.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: ‘Ofsted hasn’t inspected every subject area in each school inspection for over a decade.

‘Good quality teaching can be recognised regardless of subject and current inspections assess the standard of teaching across an institution as a whole.

‘We have national lead inspectors in all subject areas and carry out wider survey work looking at the quality of provision for specific subjects where we have concerns or to highlight good practice.

‘Inspectors do take into account school performance data, but this is only the starting point in the inspection process.

‘To fully understand the quality of education being provided by a school, inspectors look closely at a broad range of evidence, including the quality of teaching, learning and assessment and the effectiveness of leadership and management.

‘Inspectors talk to pupils, parents, governors, teachers and school leaders, look at workbooks and gain an understanding of the culture of a school.’