Ofsted inspectors lack ‘key skills’

In a new report, it has been revealed that many Ofsted school inspectors lack the skills needed in order to judge schools fairly, including experience with primary schools and special needs training. Their deficiency has been attributed to the large number of inspectors employed part-time by private firms.

Among the essential skills that inspectors are said to lack is data analysis, needed in order to interpret the increasing amounts of educational data available about the performance of schools and the ways in which they operate.

As a result of these findings, the report, named ‘Watching the Watchmen’, has recommended creating an accreditation exam for inspectors to sit before entering schools. A data analysis test has also been suggested in an attempt to improve the quality of inspectors.

Furthermore, the Policy Exchange Report, responsible for creating the report, has suggested that Ofsted abolishes or radically reduces the number of inspectors hired from private firms.

Currently, Ofsted inspectors are required to have five years’ teaching experience and knowledge of the area they are inspecting. However, the report has stated that Ofsted must ensure that inspectors have more relevant and recent teaching experience.

These results followed a survey in which researchers consulted 300 headteachers. Currently three regional contractors employ approximately 3,000 inspectors, half of whom carry out school inspections. In comparison, Ofsted directly employs 300 inspectors, around 50% of whom work in schools.

Other findings in the report state that greater focus should be put on struggling schools.

Michael Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s national director for schools, said the education regulator had played a major part in raising the standard of schools in England over the past 21 years.

He said: “We are now looking at how inspection should develop in the coming years to reflect the fact that eight out of 10 schools are now good or outstanding.

“We welcome the Policy Exchange’s recommendations – many of  which chime with our own – and will be studying them more closely in the coming days.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Schools must be inspected by someone with relevant and recent experience. It is simply no good, for example, for a special school to be inspected by a non-specialist or early years to be inspected by a sixth form specialist.”

 Anna Lewis