The Conservatives have failed educators, parents and pupils

Responding to a Conservative announcement on Ofsted, 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.”

The National Audit Office report cited by the Conservatives on the importance of Ofsted also found that the inspectorate “does not know whether it school inspections are having the desired effect.”

“Ofsted does not know whether its school inspections are having the intended impact: to raise the standards of education and improve the quality of children’s and young people’s lives” National Audit Office, Ofsted’s Inspection of Schools, p9, [20]

The independent Education Policy Institute found that the Conservatives’ frequent claim of 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools is misleading.

“It fails an important test of any statistic – it does not show the user what the produce believes it shows. it does not adequately demonstrate that standards in schools have improved since 2010, at least not to the extent that a quarter of all pupils are in significantly better schools because of any policy intervention.”

The Ofsted grading system has been widely criticised, with the Association of School and College Leaders, National Education Union and Headteachers’ Roundtable all calling for an end to the current grading system.

Teachers are currently leaving the profession in record numbers, with the current inspection system a driver of high levels of workload among teachers and school leaders. Department for Education research found that preparing for Ofsted inspections was seen as a significant driver of the “increase in unnecessary and bureaucratic tasks”, with Ofsted’s own research finding that 54% of teachers said that an Ofsted inspect means a “huge amount of unnecessary extra work”.

Department for Education, Teachers’ workload diary survey 2013: Research report (2014), p5 

Ofsted/YouGov, Teachers’ awareness and perceptions of Ofsted: Teacher Attitude Survey 2018 Report, p24

Labour’s replacement system would use a two-phase inspection. In the first instance inspections will be carried out by local authorities, due to their knowledge of the local context. However this will not remove independence from the system, and local authorities would not inspect their own children’s services. The Conservatives’ claim that this is the case is simply not accurate.

The second phase will be a longer inspection led by specialist HMI, to provide in depth information about a school or other education provider, as well as helping them find out what needs to be done to improve.

Ofsted has estimated that there are around 500 illegal schools that fall outside of the current inspection system. Inspectors have said that when inspecting these unregistered schools they have seen “open sewers, rat traps… exposed electrical work… holes where children have probably punched plaster walls.

Labour will address this by creating a new, statutory definition of a school, overhauling current Department for Education guidance that is open to abuse due to significant loopholes. The Department has issued guidance saying that 18 hours of teaching a week constitutes full-time education, but many settings can avoid this by teaching for just under the 18 hour threshold and therefore avoiding scrutiny.

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