Steve Beasant

Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Great Grimsby and Councillor for the East Marsh Learn more

Greg Mulholland backing Bill to give schools greater right to challenge Ofsted

by Steve Beasant on 10 February, 2016

blankLiberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland is calling for a cultural change in the inspection regime for English schools and for schools to be given rights to challenge and appeal against Ofsted verdicts and processes.

Ofsted- the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills- is the statutory agency which inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. The party’s education spokesperson John Pugh MP will introduce a Ten Minute Rule bill in parliament today with the aim of replacing a punitive culture of fear with a culture of improvement and support.

Ofsted has over a thousand permanent employees and costs the nation £153 million every year. Those figures are dwarfed though by the money and time schools spend preparing for inspection itself. This is entirely understandable given the consequences that can flow when an inspection goes badly. The stakes are high and can involve the sweep out of senior management, complete change of governance and the dramatic termination of careers.

Given the consequences of an adverse Ofsted judgement, Liberal Democrats believe there has got to be some redress and appeal against an unfair, clumsily managed or politically skewed report. The fact that the only assurances are given by OFSTED themselves is a reason why many teachers and head teachers feel that complaining is a losing and dangerous game. This kind of vulnerability is one reason why heads are leaving and fewer are seeking headships.

Liberal Democrats are proposing that appeals against Ofsted judgements should be heard by independent regional panels with nominees from the professional associations. Appeals could not only be about the content of inspection but also about the procedure and timing of inspections where that may give an unrepresentative picture of school performance.

Under Liberal Democrat proposals, schools would also have the right to question the competency and background of inspectors. Schools that disagree strongly with Ofsted judgements could also have the right to incorporate their response in the final report that is put before parents.

John Pugh said:

“We have one of the most expensive, heavy-duty systems of school inspection in the world, but many of the countries who exceed the UK in performance and who seek to emulate Finland or Singapore have a quite different approach.”

“There is little doubt that there have been question marks about the qualifications of some inspectors and mounting evidence that the government’s pressure to convert schools to academies influences judgements made.

“Fundamentally though we want to install a collegial, peer-reviewed model of school improvement instead of what can become the teaching equivalent of the Spanish inquisition where careers go up in flames at the mere whiff of educational heresy. Inspection has a valued role in education but the way we currently do it in England via the bloated, bureaucratic beast that is Ofsted is clumsy, poor value for money and at times downright illiberal.”

Greg Mulholland MP added:

“I’m pleased to be backing the Bill introduced by my colleague John Pugh. Ofsted play a vital role in ensuring the education that our children are getting is up to scratch. However, sometimes schools legitimately feel hard done by, and when this is the case, they should have a greater right to challenge the findings of an Ofsted inspection. That’s what this Bill seeks to allow.

“Schools and teachers are always looking to ensure they are delivering a quality education for their pupils and they should be rightly commended for doing so. They will always take on board suggestions for improvement, but Ofsted are not perfect, and might occasionally make suggestions that may not be reasonable or fair. Schools should be able to give a formal response to an Ofsted judgement, so parents can rightly judge the situation for themselves.”

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