Ofsted: MPs call for an end to single-word grades

Ofsted: MPs call for an end to single-word grades

By Nathan StandleyBBC News

Brighter Futures for Children Ruth PerryBrighter Futures for Children
Ruth Perry: The headteacher took her own life after an inspection downgraded her school to "inadequate"

MPs have called for an end to single-word Ofsted judgments after school inspections.

The cross-party education select committee’s report also said schools should not be automatically graded "inadequate" for minor safeguarding concerns.

But it said most in the sector still wanted "strong accountability" in schools.

Ofsted welcomed the report and said it would respond to its recommendations.

Changing one or two-word judgments – like "inadequate" or "requires improvement" – can only be done by ministers.

The report said there was "general agreement" between school leaders, teachers, parents and others, on the need for an independent inspectorate for schools.

But it said relationships with Ofsted had become "extremely strained" and trust was "worryingly low".

The appointment of Sir Martyn Oliver, the new chief inspector, in January represented a "crucial opportunity to reset and restore these relations", the report said.

The committee’s inquiry ended just weeks after the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Ruth Perry, who took her own life after an Ofsted inspection at her school in November 2022.

She had been head of Caversham Primary, in Reading, Berkshire, for 13 years.

A coroner said the inspection, which was at times "rude and intimidating" and downgraded her school to the lowest rating, "inadequate", contributed to her death in January 2023. The school has since been regraded as "good".

Sir Martyn Oliver’s appointment is a "crucial opportunity" to restore relations with teachers, MPs say

"We have started making changes to the way we work, but we know more must be done to address the pressures faced by school leaders and staff," an Ofsted spokesperson said.

The committee’s report said "one of the most strongly criticised" aspects of the inspection process was the one or two-word judgments handed down to schools after an inspection.

It said Ofsted needed to work with the Department for Education to find an alternative.

Intervention measures for schools rated "inadequate", including heads losing their jobs and schools being made to become academies, were adding "further stress" by creating a "high-stakes" inspection system, the report added.

It recommended that those measures should not be imposed until a reinspection of schools rated inadequate for "uncomplicated" issues that can be resolved quickly.

No school should be graded inadequate over safeguarding concerns unless it is "fundamentally failing" to keep children safe, it added.

How Ruth Perry’s death put Ofsted in the spotlight.

Hundreds of people joined a protest outside Sheffield City Hall in April 2023, calling for the academy plan to be reversed.

Mother Emma Wilkinson said: "For us, that ‚inadequate‘ wasn’t simple, because it was inadequate in one area – in safeguarding – but good everywhere else.

"Personally I think the word ‚inadequate‘ is not helpful. I think we should be talking about areas where schools can improve, because to me that describes a really failing school – and that clearly wasn’t the case at King Edward’s.

"It wasn’t failing its children, but it’s labelled with this awful word – inadequate – and all the staff and teachers and children and parents have got this label hanging over them."

She also called for parents to be listened to during the inspection process, and for inspectors to recognise the "huge pressure" schools are already under.

BBC/Branwen Jeffreys School parent Emma WilkinsonBBC/Branwen Jeffreys
Emma Wilkinson campaigned against King Edward VII school in Sheffield being made to become an academy after an ‚inadequate‘ judgment

He said the work already done by the new chief inspector was cause for "cautious optimism", but added that the report "underlines the scale of the challenge in front of him".

Paul Whiteman, general secretary at school leaders‘ union NAHT, said the committee’s report meant there was an "overwhelming consensus that single-word judgements have had their day".

But Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union, said the report "does not grasp the true scale of the problem".

"Any model of change must begin by understanding the deep crisis that schools are enduring in respect of workload, staffing, attendance and mental health," he said.

"We don’t see such an understanding reflected in these recommendations. While we recognise the greater transparency they will bring to Ofsted’s work, they fall well short of the reform that we need."

Title: Ofsted: MPs call for an end to single-word grades
URL: https://www.bbc.com/news/education-68106248
Source: BBC – Homepage
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Date: January 29, 2024 at 07:12AM
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