7 March 2017
Commenting on a reliability study of short inspections, published by Ofsted, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the NUT, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“This is a thorough and honest report from Ofsted which seeks to examine the reliability of its short inspections for ‘good’ schools that were introduced in September 2015. As Ofsted itself points out, it was neither an evaluation of the validity of Ofsted inspections, nor was it a reliability indicator of full section 5 inspections.*
“School inspection is a high-stakes process with potentially extreme consequences for senior leaders, teachers and school communities. It is to be welcomed that Ofsted is committed to making the current school inspection process as robust and independent as possible and studies of this sort are a necessary part of that process.
“However given the limitation of this research the NUT concurs with Ofsted that further research is required in order to establish the reliability of inspection more broadly as well as investigating the overall validity of school inspection for determining school quality.
“It is frankly astonishing that reviews of reliability and validity have not been carried out previously. Many head teachers will tell you that it is the fear of Ofsted that is driving the huge overwork of teachers and in turn driving the teacher shortage.
The NUT believes that there is a better approach to school accountability in which 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.”
The report aimed to evaluate how frequently two inspectors independently conducting a short inspection of the same school on the same day agreed whether the school remained ‘good’ or whether they needed further evidence via a full section 5 inspection in order to reach a secure judgement. The study involved 24 primary schools that had been judged as ‘good’ at their previous inspection and which had between 250 and 500 pupils on roll. All the schools involved in the study had agreed to take part. The schools were given a ‘live’ inspection on the same day by a ‘lead’ and ‘methodology’ inspector who were expected to conduct their inspections independently.
While the report concludes that in 22 of the 24 completed inspections, inspectors agreed on their final judgement at the end of the short inspection, the report itself highlights a number of limitations of the study: