Petition Pause Ofsted inspections and reform how school performance is evaluated
This petition is calling for routine Ofsted inspections to be paused so that the recommendations of the Beyond Ofsted inquiry can be implemented, moving to a system of self-evaluation by schools, supported by external school improvement partners, and a more limited role for Ofsted.
The Beyond Ofsted inquiry has provided us with fully researched and tangible recommendations for the future of school inspections - change that could transform education in England and the lives of students, teachers and leaders.
For significant reform to happen, we believe a pause in routine inspections must happen so that government and key stakeholders can work together on delivering the inquiry's recommendations.
This can be a pivotal moment in education if teachers and parents get behind the inquiry's findings. We have an opportunity here for real change!
This response was given on 4 January 2024
The government remains committed to the regular Ofsted inspection of all schools. Inspection plays a vital role in providing assurance that pupils are receiving a high-quality education and are safe.
Read the response in full
The government does not accept that England should move to a system of school self-evaluation, with no routine inspection of schools.
Thanks to the dedication and professionalism of school leaders, teachers and other school staff, supported by government, standards have risen across the country, with 89% of schools judged by Ofsted to be providing a good or outstanding education for their pupils - up from just 68% in 2010. In the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, published earlier this year, England came fourth out of the 43 countries that tested children of the same age. This month, results from the Programme for International Student Assessment showed that England is one of the top performing countries in the western world. Ofsted inspection is an important element within the government’s wider framework of accountability and strategy for improvement that is supporting this success.
Inspection plays a vital role in providing a regular, independent and rounded assessment of all schools, identifying and recognising strengths and highlighting areas that need to be improved. Its reports trigger support for schools and intervention where that is needed to ensure improvement is made for the benefit of pupils. Ofsted’s national programme gives the inspectorate unique insight into effective practice that can then be shared across the system.
Inspection of schools by an independent body, working to a national framework and leading to published reports provides assurance to parents, the wider community, government and parliament, that pupils are receiving the high quality of education they deserve and are being kept safe.
It is important that inspection arrangements continue to evolve and develop, and that we respond where change is needed. The tragic death of Ruth Perry, headteacher of Caversham Primary School, at the start of this year, has understandably led to a broad discussion about inspection, the accountability arrangements and support for school leaders.
In June this year, the government announced a doubling of the Department for Education’s wellbeing support programme by March 2024. The government is committed to further expansion of the mental health and wellbeing offer beyond March 2024.
At the same time, Ofsted announced a series of changes to improve inspection practice and reduce the pressure associated with inspection, which have since been implemented. This included:
• Changing the inspection approach to safeguarding, so that where a school is judged inadequate solely due to ineffective safeguarding, inspectors will revisit within three months. This means the school has an opportunity to make improvements and have those recognised through an improved Ofsted grade very quickly;
• Ofsted providing greater clarity about its expectations on safeguarding, and the difference between minor and significant issues – and communicating that effectively to schools, for example through webinars;
• Making it clear when sending schools the draft report, that the headteacher should discuss the draft findings with anyone they deem appropriate, including their friends, family and colleagues and encouraging them to seek the support they need, personally and professionally;
• Ofsted providing schools with additional information about the broad timing of inspections, to help reduce pressure;
• Ofsted changing its approach so that its reports are more depersonalised - with references referring to all those responsible for the school rather than focusing on individuals; and
• Ofsted consulting on changes to its complaints system to increase transparency and make it easier for schools to raise concerns. Following the consultation Ofsted has recently committed to implementing the new system, and that process will begin in January.
The inquest into Ruth’s death has now concluded, and it is clear that lessons need to be learned, and further improvements made. As a first step, Ofsted has taken some immediate action, including bringing all lead inspectors together to address the issue of anxiety, and to ensure inspectors are clear what to do if it becomes apparent that an inspection should be paused. It has also ensured that schools are provided with a number they can call to speak directly to someone senior from Ofsted if they have any concerns about their inspection.
Working with Ofsted’s new Chief Inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver, we are looking closely at the coroner’s findings and will make further changes where they are needed to make sure we have an inspection system that supports schools and teachers, and ultimately secures Ruth’s legacy.
Department for Education
At 100,000 signatures...
At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament