School inspectors were accused of having a political agenda today as they began their first investigation into whether a local authority was failing to support its schools. This is from the Times…
Surprise inspections have begun at a series of schools in Derby, and they will focus not just on the performance of the head and teachers, but how effectively they have been supported by the city’s council.
Dozens more head teachers in Derby will receive telephone calls from Ofsted officials asking for details about the authority’s plans to improve schools in the city.
If inspectors are given poor feedback, Ofsted will proceed with a separate inspection of Derby’s children’s services department.
The Times revealed in November that Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, wants to resume inspections of town hall education departments as well as schools to investigate wide variations in standards in different areas.
His first annual report, published in the autumn, included a league table of school performance, ranked by local authority.
This showed that only 43 per cent of primary age children in Derby attended schools that were ranked good or outstanding by Ofsted, the second lowest proportion in England. Six per cent of all schools in Derby are rated as failing and 44 per cent as in need of urgent improvement
The lowest was Coventry, where 42 per cent of children attended primary schools rated good or better by Ofsted.
This week’s inspections in Derby will be followed by similar exercises in five other local authority areas. Sir Michael declined to identify these, to protect the principle that inspections happen with as little notice as possible. Other than Coventry and Derby, his report also raised questions about school performance in Doncaster and Oxfordshire.
But school leaders accused Sir Michael of following an “anti-council” agenda similar to that of Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.
“Simply flagging up failure and blaming entire local authority areas is an almost text-book way to create a climate of combat from which no pupil will benefit,” said Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.
“We are concerned that Ofsted is straying from its mission to evaluate the quality of schools and joining with a controversial vision of replacing local authorities with chains of academies. Any sense that this is about politics rather than quality will raise the suspicions of school leaders. Academy conversion should be the choice of the school rather than the result of a lack of other options.”
More at: Snap school inspections ‘driven by politics’ (subscription required)