‘Counterproductive’: Majority of school leaders want Ofsted inspection grades overhauled

‘Counterproductive’: Majority of school leaders want Ofsted inspection grades overhauled


‘Counterproductive’: Majority of school leaders want Ofsted inspection grades overhauled 1

The vast majority of school leaders want Ofsted‘s grading system overhauled, a survey suggests.

Nine in ten headteachers want the watchdog’s four-grade ranking scheme reformed – with three in five (61 per cent) supporting it being replaced with narrative judgments, according to a new poll.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which carried out the survey ahead of its conference, called the graded judgments “crude and stigmatising”.

Inspectors currently grade schools from the highest rating of Outstanding, through to Good, Requires Improvement and down to the lowest ranking of Inadequate.


“Labelling a school as inadequate is not smart, it is counterproductive,” Mr Barton will say on Saturday.

The survey, of nearly 800 school leaders, found that there is significant disquiet among heads over the perception that Ofsted is favouring a two-year programme for GCSEs rather than a three-year scheme.

The school leaders’ union, which is concluding its conference in Birmingham on Saturday, has said Ofsted denies any such favouritism but it has called for greater clarity and reassurance from the watchdog.

It comes amid a row between school leaders and Ofsted over its new inspection regime which focuses  more on the quality of education on offer rather than exam results.

An award-winning headteacher resigned in January after Ofsted inspectors graded the school as “requires improvement” due to concerns about “restricted” learning despite a boost in GCSE results.

However, the survey revealed that three-quarters of headteachers believe Ofsted’s framework, introduced in September, is actually an improvement despite concerns among staff.

Mr Barton will tell the conference in Birmingham: “The great shame is that this one topic risks overshadowing the generally positive reception of the new framework.

On the survey findings, he added that it reveals that “deep misgivings” remain about the inspection system aside from the new inspection framework.

Mr Barton will say: “Ofsted inspections remain inconsistent. Many leaders feel it is the luck of the draw. The verdict feels as if it depends more on the inspection team than the framework.

“Nowhere near enough recognition is given to the context of schools and colleges which are doing great work in relentlessly challenging circumstances.

“And, finally, the tone of inspections too often feels combative rather than supportive.”

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director, is expected to address the conference of headteachers in Birmingham on Saturday afternoon.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We’re pleased that three-quarters of school and college leaders who were surveyed believe our new approach to inspection is an improvement.”


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