NAHT was invited to give evidence to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on 25 June. The PAC is considering the National Audit Office’s (NAO) recent report on Ofsted’s approach to inspecting schools and whether the inspectorate provides value for money.
In a wide-ranging session, Nick Brook set out NAHT’s view that accountability systems should always be tested against their ability to deliver improvement, explaining that there is now ‘much less evidence that the inspectorate is having a positive impact’ than it did when it was first formed.
Nick said ‘I hear much less about inspection uncovering anything of worth that… schools did not actually know already,’ echoing the NAO’s view that there are issues with the rigour of the inspection process. Referencing the high stakes of the current accountability system he emphasised the ‘interplay with performance tables and the fear that...poor results at the end of one year…could be career ending.’
He pointed to short one-day inspections of good schools ‘which simply do not seem to be long enough to be useful, yet… are now the norm’ noting that ‘Ofsted has become reliant on the short inspection model to perform its duties’. Reporting the experience of a recently trained Ofsted Inspector who said that short inspection involves 'a near impossible task to get through the work that was needed, ’Nick noted that ‘we have good inspectors attempting to achieve the impossible in schools’.
Nick explained that these reasons lay behind NAHT’s decision to convene an independent commission on accountability that will report its findings and make recommendations this September. NAHT’s ambition is that this will be the first step towards a future accountability system where school leaders no longer require bravery or heroism to do that right thing because ‘doing the right thing is the easy thing to do’.
You can watch a recording of Nick giving evidence here.
Ofsted and the Department for Education gave evidence at a later session - for a summary of Amanda Spielman’s responses to the Committee’s questions see this Schools Week article.
First published 27 June 2018
First published 20 June 2019