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Ofsted inspection delay is a step in the right direction but more reform still needed, writes Headteachers' union boss
2 January 2024, 13:15
Paul Whiteman is general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools in England
Today’s announcement of a delay to Ofsted inspections while inspectors receive training in dealing with mental health and wellbeing is a positive move in the right direction.
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It is really something that should have been done as soon as the tragic case of Ruth Perry last year so strongly shone a light on the need for this kind of training.
But it is good that the new Chief Inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver, who took over from Amanda Spielman on the 1st January this year, has shown that he is listening to the concerns of the profession and is willing to take some action.
Of course, it doesn’t go far enough.
More fundamental reform of Ofsted is urgently needed.
Really, inspectors shouldn’t need special training on dealing with the awful impact of the stress of inspection on school leaders – that stress shouldn’t be the norm.
Speaking to the members NAHT represents – school leaders in the majority of schools in England – they tell me the anxiety and disruption caused by Ofsted is debilitating – both personally and to the functioning of a school.
The agonising wait for the call to be inspected, followed by the upheaval and workload affecting all staff during the inspection – it is too much, and is doing more harm than good.
A recent NAHT survey showed that more than half of school leaders are considering leaving the teaching profession – and Ofsted is one of the biggest drivers cited for that.
These are dedicated, experienced and valuable members of the teaching workforce that we can ill-afford to lose.
So, while we see this training as a positive move, more does need to be done to take the impact of Ofsted from a net-negative to a net-positive.
One of the biggest things we are pushing for is the removal of single-word overall judgements like ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. These simplistic summary words do not provide useful information for parents or schools, and they feed into a judgement regime that is far too high stakes.
The public pressure they put onto head teachers is immense – they even affect house prices!
I will be speaking to Sir Martyn this week to discuss further the concerns of the profession and how things must change.
We hope to continue the positive tone we have started the year with and to continue to see progress made.