Ofsted costs 5,000 teachers a year, says new report

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The cost of running Ofsted is the equivalent of almost 5,000 teachers a year, according to a new study by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The study, called 'Managing by Numbers', and reported in the Financial Times, claims that the cost of running Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, is the equivalent of more than one teacher for every secondary school in England.

Christopher Hood, director of the public services programme for the Economic and Social Research Council and an author of the study, said: “Costly measurement systems may come under greater pressure to justify themselves when the resources involved could be put to other ‘frontline’ uses.”

The cost of running Ofsted, for example, is £207m per year - 0.27 per cent of Education spending, or the cost of almost 5000 teachers.

Targets, performance indicators and rankings do have a role in public management, according to Professor Hood, but such measurements need to be used more intelligently.

For example, league tables do not always provide clear discrimination and ignore the uncertainties associated with measurement.

Over half of all English secondary schools are little different to the national average when ranked for the improvement they make to pupils’ progress once other factors are taken into account - i.e. when ranked on their CVA scores - a measure of pupil progress that takes social factors into account. Further, the same school can have different positions in a league table depending on which aspect of performance is measured.

Ranking schools on GCSE scores produces a very different league table to ranking them on CVA.

Nor do targets always lead to sustained performance, as shown by the levelling off in improvement in literacy and numeracy in English primary schools, says the report:

“When public services move from sustained increases in funding to a context of greater pressure on resources, questions arise as to what should be measured, how it should be measured and how much the state should devote  its  resources  to measurement.”

The report concluded that even if public service performance indicators are viewed mainly as a political strategy, it is not obvious that targets and ranking systems had any appreciable electoral payoff for the incumbent political party.

Yet both the Conservatives and Labour said they would put much more weight on measures of public satisfaction with services.

The appeal to politicians of seemingly ‘objective’ systems is that they provide demonstrable evidence of achievement for voters, while still being able to be finessed to fit political needs, says the report.

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