School Inspection - why school self-evaluation is more effective


  • The purpose of a school evaluation system should be to enable schools to 'know themselves' honestly in order to support their development and effectiveness. 
  • Yet the current inspection system creates precisely the opposite set of conditions.  Openness and confidence about owning the processes of school evaluation have been replaced by the paramount need for schools and teachers to 'put on a performance' for the inspectors.  The lack of professional dialogue between inspectors and teachers is harming, not helping, children's education.
  • There is an inconsistent approach to the use of data; inconsistency across inspectors; and concerns about the quality of inspectors, especially Additional Inspectors.
  • Ofsted inspections in their current guise stifle innovation and this leads to a narrowing of experience for children and young people.1
  • It is impossible for teachers and Head teachers to understand how their school will be measured when the inspection framework changes as often as it has in recent years.
  • A recent YouGov poll of teachers found that only 15 per cent believed that Ofsted inspections make a positive contribution to school improvement; just 9 per cent believed they capture a rounded picture of all the school's work; only 12 per cent agreed that they are a reliable measure of school performance; and a mere 7 per cent of teachers concluded that inspections supported school improvement.2
  • A recent NUT survey found that just 28 per cent of respondents believed the recommendations for improvement in the inspection report for their school would help their school progress.3 Furthermore, over a third of teachers had mixed views on whether or not inspectors take account of the local context of the school and the pupil population when making a judgement.4
  • A recent independent review by right wing think tank Policy Exchange found a significant deficit of expertise in inspectors.5 This supports the NUT's own survey findings which found that one in four inspectors were not perceived by teachers to have the right experience to make accurate judgements.6 Schools should not be judged by inspectors who do not have relevant and recent teaching and curriculum expertise, or the skills to adequately interrogate school data.
  • Recent research carried out by think tank DEMOS found that fear of the inspection regime is creating a toxic culture in schools and is failing to achieve its stated goal of improving education.7 The system is built on control and assumes a lack of trust.8Yet international evidence shows that trust within a school – between senior leadership, teachers, students and parents – improves educational outcomes.9
  • Teachers understand the need for accountability, but school evaluation is at its most effective when school communities understand its purpose and relevance.  Overwhelming evidence from research10 and practice demonstrates that evaluation by schools themselves must be at the centre of school inspection and support.
  • The primary goal of school evaluation should be to help schools move forward through critical self-evaluation. Head teachers and teachers should be at the forefront of evaluating their school, with the inspectors' role being to scrutinise the self-evaluation rather than make judgements themselves without sufficient time and evidence.
  • Effective evaluation should equip teachers with the know-how to evaluate the quality of learning in their classrooms so that they do not have to rely on an external view, whilst welcoming other perspectives because they can enhance and strengthen good practice.11
  • Ofsted should urgently look to reform the school inspection system, working with teachers and school leaders to develop and implement a system based on mutual respect.
  • The NUT is engaging with Ofsted to seek to influence its current review of the inspection regime and expected further reform of the inspection process to take effect from September 2015.
  • In addition, the NUT is calling for an independent review of current accountability arrangements, including the inspection system in England.

1 John Macbeath (1999), Schools Must Speak for Themselves: The Case for School Self-Evaluation, London: Routledge.

2 NUT commissioned YouGov poll of 826 teachers carried out in December 2013. NUT (January 2014). Teachers' New Year Message [online].

3 NUT (February 2014), NUT School Inspection Survey Report [online].

4 Ibid.

5 Harriet Waldegrave and Jonathan Simons (2014), Watching the Watchmen: The future of school inspections in England, London: Policy Exchange. Available at:

6 NUT, NUT School Inspection Survey Report.

7 James Park (2013), Detoxifying School Accountability: The Case for Multi-Perspective Inspection. London: DEMOS. Available at:

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Macbeath, Schools Must Speak for Themselves.

11 Ibid.

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