9 in 10 teachers say Ofsted is not 'reliable' on standards

Catherine Gaunt
Wednesday, November 1, 2023

More than nine in ten teachers from schools across all grades agree that Ofsted is not a ‘reliable and trusted arbiter of standards’, according to an inquiry into the future of schools inspection.

PHOTO Adobe Stock
PHOTO Adobe Stock

A similar proportion disagreed with the statement that Ofsted inspections are ‘a valid method of monitoring performance and holding schools to account’.

The research comes from Beyond Ofsted, the inquiry into school inspection, chaired by Lord Jim Knight.

Both ‘winning’ schools and ‘losing’ schools agree that Ofsted inspections are unfair and inaccurate, according to the findings.

The inquiry commissioned a survey of 6,708 educators from both primary and secondary schools, which was carried out by researchers from UCL Institute of Education from 23 March to 26 May.

As over 80 per cent of those surveyed came from Good or Outstanding schools, Beyond Ofsted said ‘it is clear that dissatisfaction with the system is felt across the board’, not just in those schools with lower grades. 

Nearly three-quarters of schools describe their experience of Ofsted inspection as negative, including the majority who receive good or outstanding grades.

Research carried out for the Beyond Ofsted Inquiry found that almost two-thirds of teachers did not think that the outcome of their most recent inspection accurately reflected their school.

Even in schools rated Good or Outstanding, more than half (58 per cent) of respondents did not think the rating was fair, demonstrating a lack of regard for the inspecting body from the teaching profession across the board.

Key findings:

  • 92 per cent) from schools across all gradings agree that Ofsted is not a ‘reliable and trusted arbiter of standards’
  • 89 per cent say Ofsted inspections are not a valid method of measuring school performance
  • 62 per cent of teachers did not think that the outcome of their most recent inspection accurately reflected their school.
  • Just one in ten ‘winning’ schools (i.e those with outstanding or good grades) report a positive experience with Ofsted    

Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of those surveyed described their experience with Ofsted as negative.

While this figure rose to 94 per cent among those with lower grades, this was also the case for 67 per cent of those who received an Outstanding or Good grade. 

Beyond Ofsted – An Inquiry into the Future of School Inspection has been set up to develop a set of principles for underpinning a better inspection system and proposals for an alternative approach. 

Chair Lord Jim Knight said, ‘This research has been extremely valuable as we formulate our recommendations. The strength of feeling about the failings of the current system is clearly universal across the teaching profession. Our aim is to identify what is needed to make it fairer and more effective. We look forward to sharing our findings with educators and policy-makers.’

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said, ‘Unfortunately, these findings chime with what we hear from our members – that there is little confidence in Ofsted as a measure of school performance, or in improving standards. While some schools do have a positive experience with Ofsted, many say inspection is simply a driver of high stress and workload, and doesn’t result in anything helpful for schools or parents.’

NAHT said it is publishing the findings of its own survey into school leaders’ attitudes towards Ofsted next month, and is speaking to government about what needs to change ahead of a new Chief Inspector starting next year.

Commenting on Beyond Ofsted’s findings, a spokesperson for Ofsted said, ‘Children only get one chance at education, and inspection helps make sure that education standards are high for all children.

‘After every inspection, no matter what the outcome, we ask schools whether they believe the inspection will help them improve. Nine out of 10 say it will. We work constructively with schools, in the best interests of their pupils.’

Beyond Ofsted’s recommendations will be published in late November. 

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