Written evidence submitted by a Member of the public
I've been a teacher in state secondary schools for more than 30 years. I currently teach part time in an 11-16 school in a deprived coastal town with a high proportion of children designated as pupil premium.
Point 1: 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.
I've experiences inspections a number of times, ranging from 4-5 day inspections in the 90s when each subject had their own inspector to the current model.
The focus seems to have shifted from teaching and learning to management and paperwork. (see point 3 below for details of the impacts of this).
Over the years I've been in schools which have received good inspection reports that clearly weren't good and ones deemed inadequate by Ofsted that clearly weren't. I don't think I've ever agreed with an overall rating of a school I've worked in.
We ignored Ofsted reports when I was looking at schools for our own children because we know, from experience, that they really aren't worth the paper they're written on.
From an individual subject perspective, the old style, in depth inspections provided some help and direction when I was a subject leader. Time spent with inspectors was, on occasion, helpful – if you had enough time to spend with them. At other times I've had to explain some pretty basic things to inspectors. For what it's worth the most helpful inspector I ever spent time with was a lay inspector.
Since inspections have been shortened there seems to be no benefit whatsoever for classroom teachers and I'm not sure there's really any benefit at any level below senior management.
The usefulness of inspections is reduced by staff being given scripts to stick to if they're talked to and lesson templates that must be followed. My wife is a head of a major department. She was criticised for saying something in a "mock" inspection which might have provided a "line of enquiry" for inspectors to actually find something out about a school.
Plenty has been written about the one-word judgement system. It's clearly unfit for purpose and unhelpful for anybody – especially for parents.
Honest opinion: Ofsted are unhelpful and largely incapable of coming to an accurate judgement about schools. They might be "right" on occasion, but the one word judgement system is clearly unfit for purpose.
Point 2: 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.
"Ofsted say we're rubbish sir". That sums up the impact on children for me (and is an actual quote from a child from earlier this academic year). Disadvantaged area, massive social issues, very high pupil premium etc… Way to help improve people's morale eh?
The impact on staff morale – at a time of the worst recruitment and retention issues I've experienced in 30+ years – is clearly disastrous (see part 3 below). That impacts on everything schools do.
Adequacy of support: is there any? I only see people in suits coming round telling us to change X or Y and it will be the magic bullet (spoiler alert: it's not). Maybe it's there and I just don't see it at the level of a classroom teacher. But it's not obvious – and I've done a range of whole school roles over the years so might expect to be able to see it. Clearly it's worse than in the days of LEA advisors and so on for what it's worth. MATs seem remote and lack competence in comparison, particularly at the classroom teacher level.
Point 3: 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.
I'm a classroom teacher. Everything – and I do mean everything – that I' m instructed to do is because "Ofsted wants this". Every piece of school-based CPD is done because "Ofsted wants this".
This creates a tonne of workload – for example, annotated eating plans (which "Ofsted want") take around 20-30 minutes per group to source the data and annotate the plans. And then a child moves groups, or you need to change the seating plan again. And we do this because we're told "Ofsted want to see it".
That's one example – there are many, many others.
Ofsted don't just impact workload during an inspection, the impact every single thing I'm required to do in school and the way I’m supposed to do it and the evidence that I'm supposed to keep to prove that I've done it – because, according to my school leaders, "Ofsted want to see xxx"
And then it changes. Someone, somewhere decides that actually Ofsted don't want to see that anymore, they want to see something else instead. So we do that for a bit.
The impact on classroom teaching workload is massive. The impact on wellbeing can cause a range of issues – I work part time as a result of the work related stress and anxiety caused by the workload increase caused by this process led by "Ofsted want…"
The pressure from senior leaders desperate to prove that they're doing their job by making mainscale teachers evidence the work that they're doing – at a huge coast in terms of workload and stress – is increasing and is one of the major issues associated with Ofsted. Until the "Ofsted want…" culture changes this won't get any better. We're continually asked to do things in order to tick a box for someone else to be able to justify that they've done their job,
Measures put in place to mitigate? There are none. You're encouraged to work longer hours and do more paperwork and make sure everything's in place and that you don't say anything that might actually be the truth if it leads to an issue being uncovered.
I'm unconvinced that any of this impacts positively on teaching – certainly not consistently – and on the experience that children have in schools.
I am convinced that schools spend time and money doing things that don't help as a result of the "Ofsted wants" culture – and that some people make a living from exploiting that culture.
Point 4: The effectiveness of Ofsted’s complaints procedure and the extent to which Ofsted is accountable and transparent in its work.
I have no experience of the complaints procedure.
My gut feeling is that there is no real accountability or transparency and I'm not really convinced that the organisation understands the impact of what it does at a level below senior management or, possibly, middle management within schools.
Point 5: The impact of the new Education Inspection Framework introduced in 2019.
The cyclical nature of frameworks is that they simply shift the focus on to something else – which means that we have to do more work on something else rather than focus on actually teaching.
A new set of "Ofsted wants" means more work, more stress and more anxiety. And the same thing will happen next time.