Isn’t it time we ditched Ofsted?

COMMENT: Pompey and the uni will make great partners

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Ofsted inspects schools. For any non-teachers reading this, think auditors – but with a really bad attitude.

In January, Ofsted raised the bar so it’s harder than ever to get a good or outstanding grading. The grading of ‘satisfactory’ which in any other walk of life would be OK (my local curry house proudly displays their ‘satisfactory’ food hygiene certificate) is being changed by Ofsted to ‘requires improvement’, which is fine as all children require at least a ‘good’ school. It is Ofsted, though, who have stuck with ‘satisfactory’ for two decades.

My schools have been inspected by some really fine Ofsted inspectors and some really rubbish ones – the trouble is the really rubbish ones have as much power as the really fine ones and there is no right of appeal against their sometimes off-the-wall verdicts.

I agree there needs to be some form of inspection of schools to guarantee schools provide value for money, but over its 20 years of existence Ofsted has demonstrated its own value for money rating is doubtful at best.

The new Ofsted boss has announced there are 5,000 failing heads nationally, which, if it’s true, would seem to reflect badly on Ofsted when they’ve been in charge for 20 years.

Whisper it, but I’ve even known failed heads, having lost their jobs due to incompetence, get jobs as Ofsted inspectors. But I don’t suppose they’ve got 5,000 vacancies to take up the supposed slack. While we’re on big numbers, Ofsted also announced 1,000 schools they rated as outstanding aren’t really outstanding and they’re going to re-inspect them. If Ofsted were a garage doing MOTs and got 1,000 judgements wrong they’d be shut down. At least with a garage you can complain or get your money back: Ofsted are beyond appeal.

In Hampshire we have an outstanding local authority with a highly respected inspection team. They know their local patch, have the best interests of the children at heart and are just as rigorous as Ofsted. They are widely respected and, because they offer support as well as judgements, they help schools improve.

Ofsted inspectors are guns for hire, drawn from all over the country with little knowledge of local schools and communities apart from what they’ve read on a spread sheet. Ofsted costs the taxpayer £207m a year: why not ditch them and let LA inspectors do the job instead. It’s just a thought.