Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Challenging inspections

ASCL has found striking evidence that it is categorically more difficult for schools in challenging circumstances to receive an outstanding Ofsted grade on leadership and management.

The evidence comes from analysing the Ofsted reports of all 120 schools in which leadership and management was graded outstanding in 2005-06.

Of these, 81 per cent were in areas of 'favourable or advantaged' socio-economic circumstances and in 52 per cent attainment was judged to be above or well above average (when including schools with average attainment, that figure went to 88 per cent).

General Secretary John Dunford said: "This suggests that inspection does not take place on a level playing field. Schools in affluent areas have a built-in advantage.

"It would appear that the inspection framework is not adequate to judge leadership and management in context. We need a more robust inspection system that is able to take into account the journey that the school has made under its current leadership and not only the particular circumstances at the time of the inspection."

This argument was made as part of ASCL's policy paper 45 on the future of Ofsted inspection, which was launched in December, at the same time as a similar document from ASCL Cymru on the future of inspection in Wales.

ASCL is proposing an end to mandatory external inspections in England and Wales to take effect within in the next inspection cycle in 2010. Instead, the need for an on site inspection would first be assessed through a desk-based Ofsted or Estyn audit.

John Dunford said: "If a school is doing well and its self-evaluation is thorough and includes the views of students and parents, there is no need for inspectors to visit. A short written report summarising the progress of the school is all that is required."

ASCL Cymru secretary Gareth Jones said: "What is the point of continuing to inflict stress and incur considerable expense, running into thousands of pounds, for the inspection team to merely confirm what the school or college already knows?

"It is time to stop punishing the majority because of the problems of the few and, in the process, to release scarce funding for genuine school improvement."

ASCL will be meeting with ministers and Ofsted and Estyn officials in the coming months to discuss the proposals.

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