Can Ofsted inspections be improved? Education Committee launches new inquiry
13 June 2023
The Education Committee today launches a new inquiry that will examine the way Ofsted inspects schools.
The cross-party Committee will look at the current inspection framework introduced in 2019, and examine whether this has had an impact on school standards and the workload and wellbeing of teachers and school leaders.
MPs will also look into questions raised by the education sector that the ratings and feedback Ofsted gives to schools may not be conducive to helping schools improve. Ofsted has acknowledged there are “legitimate” questions regarding the use of its four-level ratings system.
Another focus of the inquiry will be complaints procedures available to schools. In March 2023, Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said the complaints procedure was “not a satisfying process” for some schools, and that the inspectorate was “doing another round of work to try and find a different way of approaching [complaints]”.
However, responses to Ofsted’s post-inspection surveys last year found that 92% of schools said they were satisfied with the way the inspection was carried out, and 85% agreed that the benefits of inspection outweighed any negative aspects.
Education Committee Chair Robin Walker MP said:
“Ofsted plays a crucial role in inspecting schools and ensuring that the quality of education remains high, this is important for parents, children and the schools system, but there have been a range of concerns raised about the way it works and the impact on teachers and leaders. The appointment of the new His Majesty’s Chief Inspector later this year provides a valuable opportunity to take a step back and assess how well the system is working. We will want to look at what can be improved and how the system can respond to some of the concerns that have been raised about workload and pressure on leaders and teachers.
“Despite a growing political consensus that it does have an important part to play, this year has seen a notable groundswell of criticism towards Ofsted which appears to have stemmed from a feeling that inspections place a high burden on school staff, and a view that one-word ratings do not always fully capture the quality of teaching and care that a school provides to children from a range of backgrounds. Ofsted plays a particularly vital role when it comes to safeguarding but ensuring that inspections are proportionate, timely and reasonable is essential to build trust, especially after the tragic passing of headteacher Ruth Perry.
“Some have argued that Ofsted’s role should be expanded to provide more support to schools that need to improve, amid concerns around the impact that receiving a negative rating can have on a school’s morale and reputation. It is vital that Ofsted is clear in its role as an independent inspectorate and that it can respond to serious concerns properly when they are raised, which is why we will also want to look carefully at its complaints process.
“This cross-party Committee is well-placed to conduct a rounded, nuanced examination of the inspection regime, with a view to making recommendations to ministers and the incoming HMCI on how Ofsted’s work could be improved.”
Committee member Flick Drummond MP said:
“As a former lay inspector of schools, I look forward to examining the way that Ofsted’s work has changed in recent years in the face of new challenges that are impacting young people and schools. My cross-party colleagues and I also look forward to hearing the views of stakeholders from across the sector that will assist us in this inquiry.”
Ofsted is responsible for inspecting and regulating organisations including schools, colleges, early years providers, apprenticeship providers, prison education, children’s social care, and initial teacher training. Its remit for inspecting schools includes academies, free schools, ‘maintained’ council-run schools, alternative provision schools and special schools.
Call for evidence
The Committee will gratefully receive written evidence responding to the following terms of reference. To submit evidence visit the Committee’s website.
- The usefulness of Ofsted inspections and inspection reports and whether inspections are carried out in sufficient depth to meet the expectations of schools, governors and parents.
- The impact of Ofsted judgements on schools and pupils and the adequacy of the support schools can access to enable them to improve following an Ofsted judgement.
- The impact of Ofsted inspections on workload and wellbeing for teachers, school leaders, governors and pupils, specifically relating to workload required by the inspection process, and what measures are put in place to mitigate this.
- The effectiveness of Ofsted’s complaints procedure and the extent to which Ofsted is accountable and transparent in its work.
- The impact of the new Education Inspection Framework introduced in 2019.
Image credit: UK Parliament
The inquiry will also comprise a number of oral evidence sessions and focus groups with school staff.