Conservatives promise more money for Ofsted and longer schools inspections

29 November 2019, 05:20

The Tories have promised a raft of education changes
The Tories have promised a raft of education changes. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Teaching unions have criticised Tory plans to put more money into Ofsted and introduce inspections without notice in schools.

The Conservatives have pledged to give schools watchdog Ofsted increased powers and extra money if they are returned to power on December 12.

The party has also promised to improve discipline in classrooms and increase standards in schools, as well as changing the rules so that outstanding schools are also subject to routine inspections.

The package of measures will include increasing the length of inspections in secondary schools and large primary schools from two to three days - with the extra day focused on behaviour, bullying and the school's extra-curricular offering.

A Conservative Government would also pilot a no-notice inspection scheme where the requirement to notify schools at lunchtime the day before is waived.

£10 million additional funding would go towards supporting the training and deployment of more inspectors, the party said.

Meanwhile, Labour said Ofsted has created a "culture of fear" among teachers and is "not fit for purpose".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "In the past decade, the hard work of teachers and our school reforms have meant record numbers of children in good or outstanding schools - more children having a good education and learning the knowledge and skills they need to go on and live a fulfilled life."

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson said: "Ofsted is an independent and trusted source of information for parents and teachers and their inspections help to raise standards in our schools.

"But Jeremy Corbyn's Labour want to scrap Ofsted, meaning parents won't have reliable information about the performance of their child's school.

"Without independent inspections school standards would fall and our children would be less safe.

"A Conservative Government will back Ofsted with more funding to carry out better and more focused inspections so that parents have more reliable information about their child's school, and school standards are driven up across the country."

Gavin Williamson said Ofsted helps to raise standards in schools
Gavin Williamson said Ofsted helps to raise standards in schools. Picture: PA

But Paul White general secretary of NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) said the announcement was an acknowledgement that current inspections "do not provide a fair and reliable judgement on school performance".

He said: "The answer is not to do more of the same, in fact it is the precise opposite. Ofsted needs to focus its efforts on the small fraction of schools that are struggling to provide a good standard of education and offer a stronger diagnostic insight on what is going wrong, to help them improve more rapidly.

"Inspection is already near no-notice, with the first inspection interviews taking place within a few hours of notification of inspection.

"No-notice inspections will do more harm than good - they will result in more wasted time for inspectors, whilst arrangements are frantically put in place to meet their needs; they will be more disruptive and stressful to teachers and pupils; and will give zero additional insight in return."

Jeremy Corbyn wants to scrap Ofsted
Jeremy Corbyn wants to scrap Ofsted. Picture: PA

Labour plans to scrap Ofsted, and Jeremy Corbyn has previously said the Ofsted process created "absolutely enormous" levels of stress for staff and pupils.

Angela Rayner, Labour's shadow secretary of state for education, said: "The Conservatives have failed teachers, parents and pupils over the last nine years, creating a system that measures the poverty they've inflicted, not performance.

"Ofsted is not fit for purpose. It has created a culture of fear among teachers, driven thousands from the profession, and fails to give parents meaningful information about their children's school.

"Labour will replace Ofsted with a system that empowers parents and teachers, while protecting pupils, ensuring expertise at the heart of every inspection. We'll ensure that parents receive more information about their child's school than just a single grade and that teachers are supported to get on with providing all children a high-quality education."

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have committed to replacing Ofsted with a new schools watchdog that "teachers and parents can trust."

Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary, Layla Moran, said: “Boris Johnson is playing fast and loose with the education and the safety of our children. Hundreds of thousands of pupils could be in declining schools, but we simply don’t know.

“The Ofsted brand is fundamentally broken. It creates a huge unnecessary workload and stress for both pupils and teachers. It needs to be replaced with a schools watchdog that parents and teachers can trust.

“Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future for our children. We will support schools to succeed rather than punish them for failure. We will reverse school cuts, employ 20,000 more teachers and create a new schools watchdog that won’t let our schools go ignored for years on end."