Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ofsted Inspector Hits out at 'Frightening' New Regime: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ofsted Inspector Hits out at 'Frightening' New Regime: News

Article excerpt

Increase in failing schools paints a 'worrying picture', he says.

An Ofsted inspector has spoken out against the watchdog's "frightening" new regime, warning that it is failing too many schools and suggesting that chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw is partly to blame.

Graham Lancaster, an Essex-based inspector, broke ranks to call for the existing framework to be rewritten, with inspectors given more flexibility not to fail schools. The NAHT heads' union also raised concerns this week that inspectors are not being allowed to use their discretion when assessing school performance.

The warnings came as the watchdog confirmed plans to make inspection even tougher from September. It will introduce "almost no notice" visits, while satisfactory schools will be given four years to be judged good or face special measures and checks on teacher pay levels (see panel, page 15).

Ofsted figures from the first three weeks of the current regime, introduced in January, show that the percentage of schools judged inadequate rose from 6 to 13 per cent, while the proportion deemed outstanding fell from 18 to 8 per cent.

"We are hearing of large numbers of schools that are going into a category (being failed)," said NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby. "This does contradict everything Ofsted said about the new framework - that they would use the discretion of the inspector."

Mr Lancaster, who is also an Essex County Council primary school adviser, told a conference at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford that the new framework was "rather frightening".

"We have had schools in Essex, which previously were regarded as good schools, that have gone to failing the inspection in just two days," he added. "That is a bit of a worrying picture."

After the conference he told TES: "It is not just in Essex; it is countrywide. The bar has been raised and it is really focused on pupil achievement as it never has been before. There has been more flexibility for inspectors in the past, I think, to take account of context, to take account of current data."

The increase in failed schools had delayed the publication of reports because all verdicts of inadequate had to be double-checked, Mr Lancaster said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, who became Ofsted's chief inspector in January, was part of the reason for the shift, Mr Lancaster suggested. …

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