Today, the government announces a series of new school improvement measures including plans to scrap the exemption from inspection for schools currently rated Outstanding by Ofsted.
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools, said: "Removing the outstanding exemption is the right thing to do. To boost educational standards the government needs to rebalance holding schools to account with helping them to improve. The NAHT led Accountability Commission made this very point last year.
"Having already abandoned floor and coasting standards, it is very welcome to see that the Government is prepared to follow other recommendations of the Commission by removing the outstanding exemption, focusing inspection on providing a stronger diagnostic of how schools that are struggling can improve to good, and providing meaningful support to these schools to improve standards as quickly as possible. We look forward to working with the DfE to develop the detail behind these announcements to make sure they are taken forward in a positive way – it is support not sanction that is the key to unlocking great educational standards.
“However, NAHT remains concerned that Ofsted does not have the capacity and capability to deliver the new expectations being placed on them. As the Accountability Commission noted, resources at the inspectorate are stretched. Inspection is becoming an impossible task. Inspectors are being spread too thinly which results in dubious judgements and unreliable reporting. We have argued that Ofsted should focus their limited resources where they can make the greatest impact, that is supporting schools that are struggling to improve, whilst all other schools should receive a light-touch health check to ensure that they remain good. There appears to be little recognition of the need to make tough choices on priority and focus here.
“The announcement of a new Ofsted rating for financial management and oversight – on the day that the new inspection framework comes into effect - is both extraordinary and misguided. Ofsted is incapable of making robust judgements in this area. To do so would require considerable retraining of the inspection workforce and would result in even less time performing their core function – judging the quality of education provided by the school.
“The government has identified a legitimate issue in identifying that schools in the most challenging of circumstances have greater difficulty in achieving the same standards as those schools in more affluent areas. It is however hard to see how simply moving these schools into a single trust for underperforming schools will enable them to overcome the challenges they face. There are no shortcuts to transforming educational standards in areas of extreme deprivation, where causes of underperformance stretch far beyond the school gates.”
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