U-turn signalled over no-notice inspections for schools

Classroom Head teachers had opposed plans for inspections without any warning

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Education Secretary Michael Gove has signalled a U-turn over proposals to introduce no-notice inspections of schools in England.

Mr Gove said plans by Ofsted to introduce these inspections from September were likely to be dropped.

The plans, announced by Ofsted's new chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw in January, were welcomed by Mr Gove at the time.

But it led to an outcry from heads, who currently get 48 hours' notice.

Addressing the National Association of Head Teachers in Harrogate, Mr Gove appeared to offer an olive branch to heads by rowing back on the Ofsted announcement.

'Spanish Inquisition'

"People fear that no-notice inspection sends a message that we don't trust the profession, that Ofsted has become an arm of the Spanish Inquisition or Sean Connery's Untouchables, that they have to be ready to storm in without any notice in order to deal with something that has gone drastically wrong - that was never the intention.

Start Quote

People fear that no-notice inspection sends a message that we don't trust the profession”

End Quote Michael Gove Education Secretary

"In this process of consultation Michael Wilshaw is clear that he is listening to the profession.

"That is why when we come back after the consultation it will be clear that we have listened to the principle that has been articulated that teachers and head deserve to have the chance to know when an Ofsted inspection is coming and to be there in order to present the best face of the school - that message has been heard.

"Action will follow. In due course the chief inspector will explain how we change how notice is given, so we combine efficiency of the inspection regime with fairness to schools."

'Logical'

Announcing the move in January, Sir Michael said no-notice inspections were a "logical" progression and that it was important parents had confidence in the system.

Mr Gove said the move would provide parents with a "true picture" of schools' performance.

But head teachers objected, saying they had not been consulted.

They were also concerned that with no notice of an impending inspection, they and other members of the management team might be away from the premises on school business, such as a conference.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby welcomed Mr Gove's speech, saying the prospect of no-notice inspections had been a real concern.

"Heads have a right to be in the school when it's being inspected," he said.

"It shows a lack of trust that, somehow in 48 hours you'll have everything swept under the carpet."

Inspectors' pay

Mr Gove, who received a lukewarm reception from NAHT delegates, also suggested that Ofsted inspectors should be paid more to ensure the best people took up the role.

Inspectors are currently paid around £60,000 - "Is that enough?" he questioned in his speech.

Speaking later, he said: "I think there could be few better uses of public money than making sure our inspection system is working as effectively as possible."

Mr Gove's comments on Ofsted come after the NAHT raised concerns that inspections were "too variable" and "too subjective" and that inspectors were arriving at schools with their minds already made up about performance.

Setting up a new website, School View, the association is asking head teachers to report back on their experiences of Ofsted inspections.

The union said it plans to put the evidence it collects to Ofsted to "persuade them to address the variable quality of its inspection teams and to concentrate on helping schools improve rather than simply criticising them".

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