Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Policy - Ofsted's Approach 'Is Not Backed by Research': News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Policy - Ofsted's Approach 'Is Not Backed by Research': News

Article excerpt

No evidence for costly schemes such as Teach First, academics say.

Hundreds of millions of pounds of British taxpayers' money are being spent on flagship education programmes without evidence that they actually work, academics have warned.

The approach of England's schools inspectorate, Ofsted, to school improvement is not supported by research, and the Teach First scheme has been funded despite an "outrageous" lack of evidence as to whether it is effective, it has been claimed. Serious concern has also been raised about insufficient research into the effectiveness of academies.

Professor Robert Coe, whose work on school standards has been cited by education secretary Michael Gove, told a major conference on research in education that practice in schools needed to be more closely linked to academic analysis. Ofsted, he said, was "part of the problem". "It is not research based or evidence based," the director of Durham University's Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring said.

According to Professor Coe, there is no proof that the watchdog's inspections and lesson observations lead to "valid" judgements. "What is the evidence about people making those kinds of judgements? Do we know that inspection creates benefits to the system?" he said. "Some studies suggested that, actually, schools take a long time to recover from inspections and they don't do any good, and yet we are spending I don't know how many millions on Ofsted ... and the whole point of it is to raise standards. So let's see some evidence."

In a TES interview, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw described the claims as "tosh and nonsense". He said new figures released this week, showing a 9 percentage point rise in the proportion of schools judged to be good or outstanding (see panel, page 9), proved that the watchdog's tougher inspection regime had "galvanised the system".

But speaking at the ResearchED conference in London last weekend, Professor Coe questioned the basis of the watchdog's verdicts and said it needed to demonstrate that its lesson observations were valid. Classroom observation in general was the "next Brain Gym" because there was no scientific evidence to show that it led to better learning, he said.

But Sir Michael said: "I don't know of any headteacher who doesn't believe that classroom observation isn't anything other than a help. The fact that we are an inspectorate and we do make judgements has made a huge amount of difference."

Speaking at the same conference, Dr Rebecca Allen, from the University of London's Institute of Education, said that Teach First had been fully funded (under the previous Labour government) without a proper evaluation of its benefits. …

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