Inspections by Ofsted must give a rounded view

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Ofsted. An acronym that can work up those running educational establishments into a cold sweat.

Every head and teacher knows that a visit by inspectors from The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, to give it its full name, can potentially make or break their school – and their reputation.

Meanwhile, every parent’s first step when considering schools for their child is to check the Ofsted rating.

We use this regulatory body’s findings to make important decisions, but how are they arrived at?

Today Fareham MP Suella Fernandes calls for reform of the way schools are inspected, saying it focuses too much on exam results and not enough on what goes on each day in the classroom.

She believes Ofsted inspections put too much pressure on teachers and don’t reflect a lot of the good work that is done in schools.

She also claims there are increasing numbers of inspectors without specific subject experience.

If she’s right, we have to share her concerns. Data can only tell you so much. First-hand observation of teaching and of pupils should be a vital component of any inspection because that gives a more rounded view of how education is delivered.

Ofsted disputes the system is data-driven and maintains that inspectors also talk to pupils, parents, governors, teachers and school leaders, plus look at workbooks.

It says this is all to gain an understanding of the overall culture of a school.

We sincerely hope this is the case. No educational establishment should shy away from evaluation and accountability. But nor should it be unfairly stigmatised by an overly results-based approach.