The secret to improving Ofsted? Get rid of grades, says Coffield

The Tes reports that Ofsted’s current inspection regime isn’t ‘fit for the future’ – but there is a solution, according to a new book by influential academic Frank Coffield

Frank Coffield, emeritus professor at the University College London Institute of Education, has called for far-reaching reforms of how colleges and schools are assessed, claiming that education is “too important and too expensive to be evaluated by a model of inspection that is not fit for the future”.

In his new book, Will the Leopard Change its Spots? which is to be published next month, Professor Coffield calls for a radical new approach to release the “creativity of every student and staff member” and proposes a new system of inspection with no overall grade. 

Instead, in each of nine inspection priorities (teaching, learning and assessment; professional learning; democracy; curriculum; learning communities; resources; context; self-improvement and obstacles to a self-improving system), inspectors would choose a point on a continuum from “needs a little” support to “needs a lot” of support. A “single adjective” can “never sum up all the complexities of the extraordinary diversity” within colleges, he writes.

To tackle the common accusation that judgements are predetermined based on data, Professor Coffield proposes that inspectors should not be granted access to exam results until after they have produced an initial assessment. A “link inspector” would offer a point of contact before, during and after inspection, and a “college nominee would join the inspectors’ meetings to prevent misinterpretations”.

Professor Coffield, who is best known for debunking the “learning styles” theory, has regularly crossed swords with Ofsted in the past. In January, he penned an open letter to Ms Spielman for Tes, calling for an overhaul of Ofsted to transform it into a “force for good”.

Read more The secret to improving Ofsted? Get rid of grades, says Coffield

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