Labour got its messaging on Ofsted wrong at the last election, the shadow schools minister has said. Last year Labour announced plans to replace Ofsted with a new ‘two-phase’ inspection system, with all schools and education providers subject to regular ‘health checks’ led by local authorities, plus in-depth inspections led by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMIs) in response to the raising of concerns. These plans then formed part of the party’s manifesto for the general election in December 2019. However Wes Streeting, who was appointed as shadow schools minister last month, has now said he feels Labour failed to make it’s position clear to the public.
Speaking remotely to the Schools and Academies Show last week, he said ‘I think what Labour got wrong, if I can be frank, before the last election was that the public heard the scrap Ofsted bit. They didn’t hear the ‘we want to replace it with something better’ bit. And as a result, I can tell you that one cut through pretty quickly to parents and grandparents who were saying “why are you going soft on standards?”’ He suggested that in the future the party must not say what it wanted to scrap, but instead what it wanted to build. Speaking more generally about Ofsted, Streeting went on to say that his sense from early conversations with teachers was that the inspectorate had ‘improved in a number of respects in recent years’ and that in assuring standards it had a ‘really important role’. However in his remarks he questioned whether the current form of the Ofsted inspection attempted to achieve too much, and whether it would be better instead to look at certain elements of the inspection, such as safeguarding, separately. Whether or not to have a single 'high-stakes' visit is a 'reasonable question that people ask' Streeting said, 'But ultimately if you didn’t have Ofsted you would need to reinvent it, and so simply hoping we can scrap Ofsted and all the problems people have with external inspections regime goes away, I’m not sure that’s right.'
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