School inspections are deeply toxic


Current school inspection measures are detrimental to the development and learning of children and young people, according to a new report by James Park.

In his report, Detoxifying School Accountability, he maintains that the way the government currently holds schools to account is "profoundly toxic", with Inspectors' views of schools pitted against those of students and teachers.

Mr Park recommends that instead of Ofsted inspectors publishing their reports, the assessment in schools should be centred around qualification choice, whilst inspection should be a more inclusive process involving parents, teachers, students and inspectors themselves, with the aim of increasing accountability for all stakeholders.

As this account would be generated by the school, rather than imposed on it, it would be much more likely to gain the support of the whole school community, Park said.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Mr Parks said: "What makes this system so toxic is that it compels headteachers and teachers to make decisions every day that reflect the need to achieve better metrics more than they do the need to give young people the best possible opportunities to learn and to grow.

"From the moment a young person joins a school, their route is being mapped towards their SATs in year six and their GCSEs in year 11. This does not allow for the possibility that they might become stronger learners if they could follow a different route, and were not continually being reminded about their ranking against others.

"Policymakers try to justify the current model of Ofsted inspections by pointing to evidence that successful school systems combine autonomy with "strong" accountability. But there's no reason to think that Ofsted's is the best possible model."

He went on to say: "A little known aspect of Ofsted's work is collecting and reviewing best practice in particular aspects of school's work. Our proposal is that it should expand this role as it works to improve the strategies the school community has developed for making things even better."

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Of course there has to be accountability in schools, but Ofsted clearly is not the answer. We need, as the report suggests, a rigorous system of school self-evaluation with light touch external moderation to ensure that schools are assessing their progress correctly. The evidence from other countries shows that where teachers ‘own’ assessment and evaluation, standards go up, not down.

“Negative judgements handed out by Ofsted inspectors – often people with no recent teaching experience – have a huge impact on schools. Many staff, including head teachers, feel the pressure of Ofsted inspections to be intolerable and would rather leave the profession than go through it all again."

“Schools facing an Ofsted visit can also spend much of their time focusing on the areas the inspection will concentrate on rather than teaching and learning in the broadest sense. This can lead to over drilling in some subjects and neglect of others. This is not a good use of pupils’ or teachers’ time."

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