Written evidence submitted by Member of the public

Issues with Ofsted

I have been a teacher for over 25 years and have experienced 9 inspections over this time. More recently I have been a member of different school’s Senior Leadership Teams during inspections and feel I have a good range of knowledge and experiences related to Ofsted inspections.

I will break my comments in the main sections, each of which is my perception based on my experiences.

Firstly, Ofsted inspectors are subjective in their views. They tend to only be critical of areas they feel comfortable with. For example, a school I worked in was criticised for its Maths provision because the Lead Inspector was Maths specialist whereas a different school garnered criticism of MFL with one of the two inspectors being a French specialist. We were aware of weaknesses in the school that were virtually ignored because no one in the team really understood how the subject worked and as a result were given a light touch and ignored whereas the areas where the inspectors felt confident were looked at more deeply. This bias is then increased by the fact that the inspectors often have a specific view of how a subject should operate etc. I have also experienced an inspection where none of the inspectors were confident about a specific subject (safeguarding) and as a result panicked and put the school into special measures. The school passed an Emergency Local Authority Safeguarding review one week later and was out of special measures within 6 months with us in reality having to make very few changes.

Ofsted is not objective; the inspectors do not have enough specialist knowledge and it is a lottery on which inspector happens to come to your school.

Secondly, Ofsted does not know what effective teaching is. I have experienced over six different frameworks, with at least 4 different ones in the past 18 years. Each framework has a different definition of what effective teaching and learning is and what teachers should do. My question is ‘If Ofsted does not know itself what good teaching is, how can they judge it’.

Thirdly, and linked to my second point is the fact that how Ofsted operates and what they look for in a school keeps changing. It has an inconsistent approach to what it looks for and what criteria you need to achieve to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. I remember being inspected under a framework where ‘Healthy Eating’ criteria was a key determinant on whether you could achieve the ‘outstanding’ grade. I have not heard of this criterion for over 12 years now.

Fourthly, Ofsted changes what it values far too often, due to the changing nature of the framework, often means that areas that were a target for improving in your previous inspection are no longer considered to be important when the inspection teams arrive for a new inspection several years later. It is disheartening to hear (I have been told this on at least two occasions by inspectors) that all the work you put into improving an area of school life identified on the previous report, is ‘No longer important on the new framework.’

Fifthly, Ofsted adds stress and pressure to teachers and all staff without offering any support to help or improve. Ofsted works on a ‘cliff edge’ approach to inspection. If you get good or outstanding it is met with a sense of relief that a bullet has been dodged.

Finally, Ofsted only scratches the surface and gives a false picture of the organisations they inspect. If comes to visit an institution of often hundreds or thousands of people engaged in highly complex relationships and the development and nurture of young people, usually for 48 hours. It then attempts to provide a one-word judgment on that organisation, often based on incomplete evidence and a biased approach, then walks away without providing any help or advice.

Ofsted spreads misery and despair and provides nothing of value to make things better.  No one would miss it!

July 2023