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Smith Claims Ofsted are “Pleased but not Complacent” on Inspection Regime

In a recent speech, the new Chief Inspector for Ofsted, Maurice Smith, took the opportunity to state that he believes that the inspection regime is moving in the right direction.

Inspections have represented a contentious issue in recent years, with some criticising the mammoth Government inspectorate for schools, colleges and soon ““ to ““ be adult learning providers as well for taking a “one size fits all” approach. Whilst the merger of the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) within Ofsted was broadly accepted and welcomed, the concerns of education professionals that Ofsted may have bitten off more than it can chew remains.

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Maurice Smith stressed that there would be no resting on laurels, stating that everyone at Ofsted is committed to “make school inspections even more proportionate and even better value for money in the future.” As an example of the expanding responsibilities and duties of Ofsted, Mr. Smith said that Ofsted “inspected 2,054 maintained schools under section 5 of the Education Act 2005. That is not far short of the number we inspected in the whole of the previous school year.”

Mr. Smith spoke of the need to build on the successes of the new schemes of inspections. These, he said, feature “short, sharp inspections, by small teams,” rather than the convoluted inspection regime that saw tens of inspectors interrupt the smooth running of a school or learning institution. Furthermore, the days of weeks of anxious waiting and preparation are now a thing of the past. As Mr. Smith states: “We want teachers and pupils to concentrate on teaching and learning, not on preparing for inspections, and we want to see the school in its normal state, as it is from week to week through the year, not as it wants to be seen.”

The inspection is not simply a matter of external evaluation, as the institution’s self assessment report is the first document to be judged and evaluated. Maurice Smith stressed that the expertise of inspectors was a primary tool, saying: “Inspectors who make judgements by applying their own professional knowledge and skills.” This should allay the fears of some involved in inspections that the expertise gained by ALI inspectors will be discarded in favour of more generalised expertise.

Above all, he was at pains to stress that Ofsted is pleased, but not complacent, and would continue to strive for more effective and equitable inspection regimes. How well this is received in FE, where funding inequalities and the issues of overlap between school six forms and sixth form colleges are just two of those that cause dissent.

Jethro Marsh

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