‘Ofsted is broken’ say school leaders

Today (23 November), school leaders’ union NAHT released data from an upcoming survey of its members – the majority of school leaders in England – that reveals the profession’s ‘damning’ views on Ofsted. 

With 1890 responses between 21 September and 12 October 2023, the survey showed that school leaders have very little confidence in the quality of Ofsted inspections or their judgements: 

85% reported that they were ‘unconfident’ or ‘very unconfident’ in Ofsted. 

78% said they thought Ofsted inspectors are not able to fully understand and evaluate a school in the time they spend on site – only 12% believed they could. 

64% disagreed that the headline grade given by Ofsted for a school’s overall effectiveness was reliable. 

Only 20% felt Ofsted inspection reports provide useful information for parents, and only 18% thought they were useful for schools. 

The responses also reported on Ofsted’s impact on the mental health and wellbeing of school leaders and school staff, with the top five words given when asked how Ofsted made them feel being anxious, sick, stressed, terrified and dread. 

When asked which factors had the greatest impact on school leaders’ mental health over the last year, the most frequently cited factor was “Ofsted pressures”. 

Additionally, concern was raised about Ofsted’s complaints procedure, with 95% saying they disagreed or strongly disagreed that Ofsted deals with complaints about the accuracy of inspection judgements effectively. 

Commenting on the findings, Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “This is a pretty damning inditement of how far Ofsted has lost its way. Far from driving school improvement, inspections are seen as inaccurate, unreliable, and of little use to parents or schools. Ofsted is clearly no longer fit for purpose, even after the limited changes it was forced to make in the wake of the Ruth Perry tragedy. 

“And the appalling impact of Ofsted on the health and wellbeing of school leaders and all school staff really cannot be underestimated. It is by far the biggest source of stress reported by our members, and we know is a serious barrier to those considering taking up headship. There is a sense that Ofsted inspections – and the anticipation of them – can truly take over a school leader’s life. 

“The impact of a single word judgement that cannot possibly capture a whole school performance can be devastating. And it’s not only a ‘bad’ grade that can be damaging – many school leaders with positive inspection outcomes talk powerfully about the negative impact of the inspection process on their health. 

“Unfortunately, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Ofsted is broken. This must be a wake-up call to government, and the number one priority for the new Chief Inspector when he starts in January.” 

This data is part of a wider survey into pay, workload, inspection and wellbeing. The full results of that survey will be published later this year. 

NAHT will also be compiling a report based on our members’ views of what needs to be done to ‘fix’ Ofsted, to inform the debate as the new HMCI takes up his role. 

You may also like...