Your Weekly Sector News 19/01/24

Never miss out on the latest story in education with Your Weekly Sector News. This week, the sector faces the prospect of systemic reforms to the school inspection system as well as measures to reduce teacher workload. 
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NAHT calls for systemic reform to the current inspection model

Representing more than 37,000 school leaders, NAHT, the school leader’s union, argues ‘there is now a strong consensus that in its current form Ofsted’s inspection model is no longer fit for purpose.’ This follows the inquest into headteacher Ruth Perry’s death, which general secretary Paul Whiteman says ‘shone a bright light on the desperate need for Ofsted reform.’ To drive change within the inspection system, NAHT has published a report which proposes a set of interim steps and long-term measures. 

In the interim, NAHT calls for the inspectorate to carry out a full review to learn from the Perry case and implement training for all inspectors in light of the coroner’s findings. Ofsted is also encouraged to engage with trade unions and ensure school leaders have a mechanism with which to raise concerns about an inspection, such as a dedicated phone number – a step that has already been taken by the inspectorate. Additionally, NAHT urges Ofsted to revert to a ‘model of interim ungraded inspections’ for all schools, except those identified as causing concern, similar to inspections carried out during the pandemic until further changes are implemented. 

As a long-term reform, NAHT argues that graded judgements should be removed. Instead, it argues that inspectors should provide ‘a deeper diagnostic analysis of strengths and areas for development.’ The union acknowledges that there are cases where schools do not provide an acceptable standard of education, or are unsafe for pupils and staff. However, it says that existing legislation is sufficient to identify schools that are causing concerns. 

Furthermore, there are calls to revise the inspection framework and methodology. The report makes the case that ‘discrete inspection frameworks and methodologies’ are needed across the different school phases, types and specialisms. NAHT also suggests decoupling safeguarding checks from inspection and reviewing the notice period schools receive for inspection. This report coincides with the appointment of Sir Martyn Oliver as Ofsted’s chief inspector. Paul Whiteman comments that the new chief inspector ‘has signalled a welcome change in attitude, indicating his willingness to listen and to work with the profession.’

Ofsted issues a full response and apology for its role in Ruth Perry’s death 

Today, Ofsted published a formal response to the Prevention of Future Deaths report from the coroner who led the inquest into the death of Ruth Perry. The inspectorate has accepted all of the coroner’s recommendations and sets out the changes it intends to make, as well as action that has already been taken.

The coroner raised concern that there was an ‘almost complete absence of Ofsted training or published policy’ for dealing with signs of distress during an inspection. Inspectors are currently undertaking training on how to recognise and respond to signs of distress. Building upon this, Ofsted has pledged to develop a long-term programme of training on mental health and wellbeing. It will also publish a new policy on pausing an inspection where a serious issue has been identified that requires substantial action. 

Ofsted will also launch an internal review of how it inspects safeguarding. In particular, it will consider whether to assess safeguarding as a standalone judgement, decoupled from leadership and management. It will also explore how more time might be given to schools to improve safeguarding, when they have been judged good or better in all other areas. 

Moreover, the inspectorate will communicate to school leaders that they may share provisional outcomes and the draft report with those they deem appropriate, such as partners, health professionals, and those providing personal support. A review of quality assurance processes will also consider reducing the amount of time between an inspection and the publication of a report. Further, Ofsted will ensure that inspectors inform school leaders of the wellbeing support that is available to them through the Department for Education (DfE). 

Sir Martyn Oliver, Ofsted’s chief inspector, expressed condolences to Ruth Perry’s family and ‘apologise[d] sincerely for the part our inspection of her school played in her death.’ Professor Julia Waters, Perry’s sister, supports the new direction the inspectorate is taking, reflecting that had the reforms already been in place last year ‘perhaps my beautiful sister Ruth might still be with us today.’

Government accepts recommendations to reduce teacher workload

The Workload Reduction Taskforce was set up as part of the negotiated settlement to last year’s strike action in schools. Together with the Department for Education (DfE) and leading education unions, the taskforce is working to help ministers reduce the average working hours for teachers and school leaders by five hours a week within the next three years. 

This week, the taskforce published its early set of recommendations to help the government meet its pledge. This includes the proposal to scrap performance-related pay (PRP) after the taskforce found it does not have a ‘commensurate positive impact’ on teaching and learning. The government has agreed to remove PRP by September 2024, replacing it with ‘a less bureaucratic way to manage performance fairly and transparently.’ 

Other recommendations include the suggestion to assign senior leaders in schools with a ‘dedicated responsibility for improving wellbeing and reducing workload.’ Similarly, the DfE is encouraged to consider having a designated governor as a wellbeing champion. The taskforce also proposed that a revised annex should be reinserted in the school teachers’ pay and condition document with an updated list of administrative tasks that teachers should not be required to do. Examples include transferring pupil data into school management systems, investigating a pupil’s absence, collecting money from parents, bulk photocopying, and decorating classrooms. 

The taskforce also proposed introducing an additional INSET day to address workload concerns. However, the government concluded this was ‘not the right course of action,’ and will encourage schools to make use of the existing five INSET days for workload reduction. The taskforce will now investigate the impact of accountability on workload, including the school inspection system. The full set of recommendations are due to be published in March. 

★ In partnership with the Manchester Stress Institute, One Education offers training to ensure every member of school staff has the opportunity to learn about wellbeing, improve resilience, manage stress, and develop positive working relationships.

To find out more about our Wellbeing Support Package, including in-school support and the Excellence for Wellbeing Award, please get in touch with our Wellbeing Lead, Jade Walwyn, at the following email address:

As the demand for change continues to grow throughout the sector, One Education is here to help you make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead and create a brighter future for all. 

Please get in touch to find out how we can support you on the next step of your journey. 

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