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Ofsted must tackle its own variability before ending variation in schools, says NAHT 

The school leaders’ union, NAHT, has noted recognition by the head of the school inspection body, Ofsted, of the commitment to raising standards shown by head teachers across the country. 

However, the union claims the successes are being made in the face of change and instability in the education system. 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers), said: “It is right that the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, should recognise the hard work of teachers and leaders in improving our schools. In terms of both standards and behaviour our schools are immeasurably better than they were 10 years ago. 

“There is still variability in the system. We see Ofsted as part of the problem rather than the solution - it is a cause of variability. The increasingly short term and punitive inspection regime is making it very difficult to work in the most challenging schools. People who bravely choose to work in these schools are subject to unpredictable criteria and constant monitoring. Sir Michael Wilshaw's policies are standing in the way of getting the most talented leaders into the most challenging schools.” 

Mr Hobby added: “Sir Michael’s picture is disconnected from the reality of inspection in the field. This reality is of under-qualified and overworked inspection teams rushing through, making mistakes and relying on data rather than judgment. We have little confidence that inspection findings as a whole represent the genuine quality of education or offer any materials to help schools learn. 

“The ‘requires improvement’ rating has become a de facto 'category', with heads being removed after only one or two inspections; with academy brokers following up inspections before reports are published; and local authorities issuing warning notices to even good schools. 

“There is no opportunity to turn schools around. Because weak inspectors rely on data, they cannot spot a strong head coming into a failing school to make a difference: if the data is poor, Ofsted concludes that so is the leadership, even if there is no new data since the head started. 

“Ofsted needs to address its own variability and quality before it can speak with authority on that of schools. 

“Ofsted is also wrong to set store by increased testing at key stage one. Tests at this age are not objective measures of performance. The answer is improved moderation of teacher assessment and a better approach to base-lining upon entry to school. “  



Page Published: 11/12/2013

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