Conservatives pledge extra £10 million investment into Ofsted
The Conservative party has pledged to empower England’s education regulator Ofsted with plans to introduce longer inspection windows and a funding boost of £10 million.
The news comes after the Public Accounts Committee of MPs revealed that the amount spent on inspecting schools had fallen by 52 per cent in real terms between 1999-2000 and 2017-18.
The Tories also announced plans to trial “no-notice inspections” which would see Ofsted inspectors visit schools without warning, although this has been opposed by headteachers due to its impracticality.
Headteachers say that such inspection procedures have already been proposed and rejected numerous times given that inspectors could turn up at schools on days where the relevant senior staff are not on school premises.
Paul Whiteman, who heads the National Association of Head Teachers, said no-notice inspections will “do more harm than good”.
He said: “They will result in more wasted time for inspectors, whilst arrangements are frantically put in place to meet their needs.
"They will be more disruptive and stressful to teachers and pupils; and will give zero additional insight in return.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson also wants to give Ofsted a window of one extra day to carry out inspections of secondary schools and large primary schools, in order to examine other issues such as pupil behaviour, measures to crack down on bullying and the standards of extra-curricular activities.
Johnson is also set to end the exemption for “outstanding” rated schools from facing regular inspections. The current system means that some schools have not been inspected in over ten years.
The plans are in direct contrast to those outlined by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who both want to overhaul the existing inspection system and replace Ofsted, calling it “unfit for purpose”.
However, incumbent education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "Ofsted is an independent and trusted source of information for parents and teachers and their inspections help to raise standards in our schools.”
He went on to attack plans to axe Ofsted, saying it would leave parents without "reliable information about the performance of their child's school”.
The Labour party wants to set up a new inspectorate body for schools and scrap the existing Ofsted system for grading schools, with shadow education secretary Angela Rayner saying it has "created a culture of fear among teachers" and does not give any "meaningful information" to parents about the schools concerned.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems plan to establish a new “HM Inspector of Schools”, with checks taking place every three years.
Lib Dem education spokeswoman Layla Moran said: "The Ofsted brand is fundamentally broken. It creates a huge unnecessary workload and stress for both pupils and teachers. It needs to be replaced with a schools watchdog that parents and teachers can trust.
"Hundreds of thousands of pupils could be in declining schools, but we simply don't know."