Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

New Chief's Vision for Ofsted Will Ramp Up Pressure on Schools: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

New Chief's Vision for Ofsted Will Ramp Up Pressure on Schools: News

Article excerpt

Proposals include assessing leaders' decisions on performance management.

Ofsted intends to reintroduce inspections to "outstanding" schools and place thousands of extra schools into a legal category that would allow ministers to order them to become academies.

The proposal for top-rated schools could be seen as an embarrassing U-turn for Michael Gove, who originally came up with the idea of exempting them from further regular inspection.

But the education secretary is said to be supportive of the plan to legally redefine all schools receiving a grade 3 inspection - currently known as "satisfactory" - as schools that "require significant improvement", a change that could put rocket boosters on his academies revolution.

On the basis of 2010-11 figures, the reform would increase from 437 to 6,554 the number of schools like Downhills Primary in Haringey, London, with Ofsted verdicts that leave them open to ministerial intervention and academy orders.

The change was included in a package of measures announced yesterday by Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's new chief inspector, which he wants to introduce from September.

They include inspectors checking heads' decisions about performance management for teachers and their links to pay, and no-notice inspections for all schools.

The watchdog also plans to make outstanding teaching a prerequisite for an overall outstanding verdict and to deem only good and outstanding schools as providing an "acceptable standard of education".

Taken together, the measures are likely to be seen as a huge increase in pressure on schools, heads and teachers.

Sir Michael argues that the changes are needed to transform "poor performance" in schools, strengthen communities and improve economic competitiveness when 1.5 million young people are outside education and employment.

"We have got a situation in this country where the gap (in results) between the best and the worst, the rich and the poor, is not narrowing," he told TES. "Something like one in six adults doesn't have functional literacy skills to be able to cope in modern life. That is a big, big issue."

Heads' leaders were disappointed by the chief inspector's focus on poor leadership earlier this week and warned that "constant criticism and abuse" would lead to an "exodus" of headteachers from the profession.

But Sir Michael said that there had been no deliberate shift to more critical language and that it was important that there was good morale in teaching.

"Morale comes not just through better pay and conditions and so on, but through knowing that you are working in a good school that is attempting to do good things by children," he said. "It is important that we sometimes say tough things - that leadership is vital in changing the culture of a school and that, if heads can't improve things over a period of time, that issue needs to be addressed."

The chief inspector said that the idea that renaming and changing the legal status of the satisfactory inspection grade could lead to more schools becoming academies "didn't enter my head". Using academy status as a solution for schools with the new "requires improvement" grade was an issue for government and not Ofsted.

Sir Michael revealed that he was unhappy with the current policy of exempting outstanding schools from regular inspection, a policy Mr Gove has backed since he was in opposition. The chief inspector is now in talks with the education secretary about keeping these schools "on their toes" and finding extra money to inspect them. The focus is expected to be on around 1,000 outstanding schools that lack outstanding teaching. …

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