UK: official education inspection body needs to up its game, say unions

UK teacher unions have re-affirmed the Government’s responsibility to acknowledge the need for a fully functioning and quality education system.

The unions were responding to the publication of the Annual Report from the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), presented on 13 December by its Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman.

NEU: “Ofsted should speak truth to power”

“The Ofsted report by Amanda Spielman is one of the most balanced Ofsted reports we have seen,” said National Education Union (NEU) Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney. “Amanda Spielman acknowledges the hard work of the teachers in those schools and acknowledges that these schools need long-term support, which she points out is not available.”

He welcomed the fact that the report notes that “schools shouldn’t compete about how many pupil premium children they have, but just get on with school improvement”. He added “that is what teachers are and have been doing; it is the central obsession in their professional lives”.

Missing targets

Courtney insisted that, whilst teachers perform their work within schools, it is the Government that is failing to meet its child poverty reduction targets as it presides over increases in relative poverty and fails to produce a decent industrial strategy. It is the Government that is cutting funding to schools and missing teacher recruitment targets, he added. “An education inspectorate worth its salt, if it were truly independent, would be making these points to the Government in its report,” Courtney noted.

“We are pleased to see Ofsted agreeing with us that there is too much focus on test results rather than learning,” he said. “Again, Ofsted is failing to speak truth to power.”

He reiterated that it is the Government’s accountability regime that is leading to those behaviours in schools – and Ofsted should call out the Government over that, acknowledging its own responsibility within the system too.

NASUWT:“Government’s ideologically driven laissez-faire approach to education”

According to the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the report clearly outlined “that the teaching profession continues to secure high-quality learning experiences for children and young people”. This is despite the “continuing pressures teachers are facing in terms of depressed pay, excessive workload, and the knock-on impact of the major recruitment and retention crisis”, said NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates.

She was adamant that teachers’ success has been achieved despite the government’s education policies, not because of them, with Ofsted’s report revealing some of the consequences of the government’s failure to exercise strategic leadership over the education system, she said.

Denouncing the “government’s ideologically driven laissez-faire approach to education”, Keates underlined that “it is past time for the Department for Education to recognise that, unless the government fulfils the critical responsibilities of the state, the problems and shortcomings in the system identified by Ofsted today will only persist, broaden and intensify”.

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