Too many schools are giving students “scrappy worksheets” rather than library books to use for homework, with some not trusting children to return books the following day, the head of Ofsted has said. Headteachers must be prepared “to fight the good fight on this basic issue”, said Michael Wilshaw at the launch of the watchdog’s new framework for inspecting schools on Monday.
Billed as the biggest change to education inspection for more than two decades, the framework will include shorter, more frequent inspections for schools or colleges rated as good. At the moment, schools rated good at their last inspection are visited every five years, or every six years for further education colleges. From September, they will receive a shorter inspection every three years to help prevent standards from slipping.
Introducing the changes, Wilshaw said shorter inspections would focus on the quality of leadership and pledged to recognise exceptional headteachers and principals. Ofsted will send a letter to leaders who have had a big impact on their school, he said, adding that some deserved to have “monuments and statues built to them in towns, cities and market squares across the country”.
Heads will also be recruited to join Ofsted teams, to help improve the accuracy of the watchdog’s judgments – by September, seven out of 10 inspectors will be serving practitioners from good and outstanding schools and colleges. All inspections – excluding early years – will be brought in house, and new scrutiny committees will be set up, following complaints from unions about the consistency of inspection teams.
“The starting assumption of Her Majesty’s inspectors will be that the school or college is good. This should engender an atmosphere in which honest, challenging, professional dialogue can take place,” Wilshaw said on Monday.
Short inspections will last one day, unless teams feel the school should be downgraded or upgraded, in which case it will last an extra day, he said. Ofsted teams will look at whether leaders have identified key areas of concern and have the ability to address them. They will also judge the culture in the school and the learning materials given to students.
Too many heads tolerated “scrappy worksheets”, Wilshaw said. One secondary school teacher recently told an inspector that children were not allowed to take books home because they were unlikely to bring them back the next day. “How on earth will we ever begin to address the shocking underachievement of bright youngsters from disadvantaged homes, if we carry on patronising the poor and serving them up with lower expectations?” the Oftsed chief said.
Responding to the changes, Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the framework was a step in the right direction and could make the inspection system fairer and more effective. “We believe it is right that the inspection system should focus on outcomes, rather than telling schools how to teach,” he said. But Lightman warned that good schools that are likely to be downgraded or upgraded should not be kept in limbo.
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