Education & Family

'Give heads more time' to improve failing schools

Pupils Image copyright PA
Image caption Ofsted focuses attention on struggling schools

Heads who take on failing schools should be given more time to turn them around, the Association of School and College Leaders says.

This would "lessen the threat of career suicide" that discourages good leaders from taking up posts in tough schools, its general secretary Brian Lightman says.

There should be a recognition that it takes time to improve schools, he adds.

Ofsted welcomed the contribution and said it would respond in due course.

The ASCL paper was a response to a call from Ofsted for views on how school inspection should develop in the coming years.

'Culture of fear'

In his paper, calling for a leaner inspection system, Mr Lightman says: "In order to attract the best leaders into challenging schools, there could be an agreement with Ofsted that the school is inspected early on into a new headship and then left alone, in the recognition that it takes time to improve."

Mr Lightman also criticised the present inspection system, saying there was inconsistency in judgements and confusion about what Ofsted was actually looking for.

He added: "There is lack of clarity about the role of performance data, and the extent to which it pre-determines inspection outcomes.

"The quality of inspector training, especially by inspection service providers, is not up to standard. Finally, there is a culture of fear around inspection which hampers innovation and sensible risk-taking."


Mr Lightman argued that the inspection workforce itself should be drawn from serving or recently retired school leaders who were well-trained and worked directly to Ofsted.

And he criticised a system he said relied heavily on three inspection service contractors, which carry out inspections on Ofsted's behalf.

There have been criticisms about some inspectors' lack of experience or training in the past.

Mr Lightman called for a rethink of what schools inspections are for and how they are conducted.

"It is time to consider how a school-led, self-improving system should be regulated and regulate itself," he added.

An Ofsted representative said: "We welcome this thoughtful contribution to the debate which Ofsted has started on the future of school inspection.

"Ofsted will be announcing any proposals in due course."

The ASCL proposals are the first of many that Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's head, is likely to receive in the coming weeks.

Two think tanks, Civitas and Policy Exchange, are about to publish reports likely to criticise the current regime of school inspections.

The Department for Education did not wish to comment.

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