Unions press for external review of Ofsted

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UNION BOSSES have urged the Government to carry out an external review of Ofsted inspections amid concern over the impact they have on teachers’ workload.

A joint letter from five unions has been sent to Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg in response to the Government’s own Workload Challenge programme.

The Education Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister launched the consultation to allow teachers to share ideas on how to manage their workload. There were more than 40,000 responses.

As a result the Government put together an action plan announced last week.

It included setting out minimum lead-in times for significant curriculum, qualifications and league table changes. It also contained plans for a survey every two years to monitor teacher workload and a review of how Ofsted reports are written.

However several union bosses are unhappy with the Government’s response and are calling for action to review Ofsted.

The letter was sent by the heads of the National Union of Teachers, National Association of Head Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Association of School and College Leaders and the Voice Union. It said: “We pressed in talks that the time is right to conduct an external review of the validity and reliability of Ofsted’s inspections, and more recently Ofsted’s Chief Inspector has told the Education Select Committee he would welcome such independent scrutiny.” It adds: “We continue to jointly urge you to conduct this review of Ofsted.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We recognise there is no quick fix. But we have listened and have taken firm action by outlining a number of measures, including greater clarity for schools on the requirements of inspections and giving schools more notice of significant changes to the curriculum, exams and accountability, which teachers have told us they want.

“We have been clear that we will monitor progress by tracking teacher workload through a large scale, robust survey next spring and every two years from then.”

It comes as fresh concern was voiced about the way Ofsted inspects. Gary Phillips, a head in south London, told the Westminster Education Forum on school inspection yesterday that the outstanding judgment carries too much weight, and suggested it was time for an overhaul of inspection grades.