Ofsted remains 'out of touch' and views itself as 'beyond criticism and reform'


Ofsted remains “out of touch” with the teaching profession and continues to view itself as “beyond criticism and reform”, according to a leading education expert.

School of Education and Social Work

Birmingham City University

Matt O’Leary, Professor of Education at Birmingham City University, has reacted to news that Ofsted is resisting calls for an overhaul of its school inspection system following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, who took her own life while waiting for a report that downgraded her school.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman has issued a statement revealing that Ofsted will make some changes to its inspection process, such as how it manages complaints, but will keep its one-word grading system.

Prof O’Leary believes it is the wrong approach and says Spielman’s statement reveals three things: "Firstly, how out of touch Ofsted is with the teaching profession as a whole.

"Secondly, how it disregards the widespread and longstanding experiences and perceptions of the very people at the heart of the provision they inspect. And thirdly, how it sees itself as beyond criticism and reform. It’s either the Ofsted way or no other way! Lots of educators and academics have proposed alternative approaches that it has simply ignored.”

Reacting to Spielman’s comments that parents value the current grading system, Prof O’Leary said: “They are a familiar and tired trope rolled out by Ofsted but ironically based on a circular argument.

“As a result of the ongoing marketisation of education, Ofsted gradings have been used by schools (encouraged by Ofsted) as market indicators and parents who don’t have an in-depth understanding of the education system have inevitably used these as an influential measure.

“So, to that extent, some parents do attach some value to them, but Spielman has no empirical evidence to support their continued use. Much of what Ofsted says about parents valuing grades tends to be anecdotal and the fact that it’s become custom and practice.”

Prof O’Leary said there are alternatives to the one-word grading system: “A simple, two-tiered system of ‘pass/meets expected standards’ and ‘fails to meet expected standards’. I’ve got experience of running a teacher education course at a previous university where we resisted the Ofsted grading approach and used this two-tiered approach very successfully.”

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