This week Sir Martyn Oliver gave his first full interview to The Times newspaper. Whilst we await further details, he gave some key indications about the likely direction of travel. Ofsted have also published a formal response to the report following the inquest into the tragic death of Ruth Perry. A few key points:
- Inspections will resume next week, following the pause to enable inspector training in light of the death of Ruth Perry.
- Ofsted have issued a detailed response to the coroner’s report following the inquest into Ruth Perry’s death.
This highlights a few changes:
- Schools judged ‘inadequate’ on the basis of safeguarding to be re-visited quickly.
- The option for inspectors, or the responsible body for a school to request a pause to an inspection. This could happen if there were concerns about the wellbeing of a headteacher.
- A revised confidentiality policy which enables headteachers to share the outcome of their school’s inspection with their personal circle.
- Mandatory training for all inspectors around spotting signs of distress and reducing anxiety for those undergoing an inspection.
- Behaviour and attendance will clearly be a key focus of inspections.
- Teacher shortages will be taken into account when inspecting schools.
- Recognition of the extent to which a new Ofsted framework can push school leaders to reset their priorities: “I don’t think anyone wants another chief inspector to arrive and then say their own take on the sector should be how the whole system pivots.”
- Ofsted are launching a ‘big listen’ exercise to gain feedback from all stakeholders.
The announced changes provide some helpful adjustments to Ofsted protocols and we welcome Sir Martyn’s stated determination to listen and improve communication with schools. We are pleased to hear that inspectors will be expected to “act with professionalism, courtesy, empathy and respect” as sadly this has not always been the case. We are pleased to hear that Sir Martyn is committed to establishing a robust complaints system; we hope that this will include some recourse to an independent body where needed.
Ensuring that staffing difficulties are taken into account when making judgements is a useful adjustment, and hopefully will recognise where school leaders are managing as well as possible with circumstances beyond their control.
We welcome the commitment to re-visiting schools quickly where an inadequate judgement has been made solely on the basis of safeguarding. However, there is still a case for decoupling safeguarding reviews and Ofsted inspections, running more regular safeguarding checks to enable schools to make adjustments quickly.
We are glad that Sir Martyn recognises the extent to which schools have previously felt compelled to adjust their development priorities in light of a new Ofsted framework, and the resulting impact on workload. We hope this will mean that the new framework will support schools to build on the excellent work many have undertaken in relation to curriculum planning in recent years rather than feeling the need to adapt to a new set of priorities.
Whilst a decision for policy makers rather than Ofsted themselves, we very much hope that there will be a move away from damaging one-word judgements. Reducing all aspects of a school’s work in this way does not support ongoing development and can significantly entrench under-performance in some contexts. Whatever happens next with Ofsted, we hope that it can be rooted in open dialogue, support and professional respect.