Return to Ofsted inspections ‘daft’, says think tank chair

Stephen Tierney, chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, a school leaders think tank, has called for Ofsted to abandon plans to resume routine inspections this academic year. Inspections were paused in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but are due to resume in January 2021. Prior to the pandemic, the Headteachers’ Roundtable had launched a ‘Pause Ofsted’ campaign, which called on school leaders and other school based employees to cease inspection work for Ofsted. The aim of the campaign was to exert pressure for reform of Ofsted.

Mr Tierney made his comments about resuming inspections during a panel discussion focused on the role of Ofsted during and after the current pandemic, and organised by the NAHT school leaders union. He said ‘The vast majority of inspectors are school leaders and you know what I am going to say: pause Ofsted. If they [Ofsted] were daft enough and dozy enough to think that they could get inspections going again any time this academic year, every single leader who has previously inspected for Ofsted should just make themselves unavailable’.

Mr Tierney added ‘It is easier to say what Ofsted shouldn't be doing rather than what they should do, and the first thing is: don't go into schools and if you do need to speak to them, do it remotely.’ Last week it was announced that the ‘interim visits’ which Ofsted are currently carrying out, and which have up to now been done in person, will instead be conducted online during the lockdown period in England. Ofsted have said they will only go on site in schools during lockdown ‘where it is necessary to do so, or in response to urgent concerns’. Elsewhere in his remarks, Mr Tierney suggested Ofsted was ‘unprepared’ to inspect remote learning, saying he believed they lacked ‘the capability to do it properly’.

Also on the panel at the NAHT event was Baroness Estelle Morris, a former education secretary, who echoed Mr Tierney’s comments regarding not resuming inspections during the current academic year. She said: ‘Of course, we can't go back to inspecting against the framework in January. I think that would be a nonsense, so I think the government should say for the rest of this year that is not happening.’

At the time of Greensheets going to print, the stated position of Ofsted was still to resume inspections in January 2021. Ofsted’s rolling coronavirus updates can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ydx9vo5e  

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