"Senior Ofsted inspectors have been allowed to pass judgement on schools despite lacking even basic teaching qualifications .
"Tribal, one of the major firms that carries out inspections on behalf of the watchdog, employs at least five lead inspectors who do not have qualified teacher status (QTS), it has emerged.
"A leaked email, sent to all Tribal inspectors, reveals that the company does not keep any detailed records of the backgrounds of its inspectors. The email asks inspectors to let Tribal know whether they are qualified teachers, something the company says has previously 'not been an issue'.
"Concerns were raised after Ofsted admitted in April that it did not know how many of Her Majesty's Inspectors, the senior inspectors whom it employs directly, had experience of leading schools or whether they worked in primaries or secondaries
"While Ofsted no longer uses lay inspectors (non-teachers who used to look at provision not related to teaching), some of them are believed to be still employed by the private providers."
"A spokeswoman for Ofsted said that it also does not hold Her Majesty's Inspectors' CVs or details of whether they hold QTS. However, it is able to provide schools and colleges being inspected with a 'pen pic' of each inspector, outlining their previous teaching experience."
It is astonishing that neither Ofsted nor some of its contractor hold such basic information about inspectors. Would they accept such a lack of data from the schools they inspect?
However, such concerns about Ofsted are not new.
"Former head teachers who have had to leave their own schools after they were found to be failing are working as Ofsted inspectors. And a former chief inspector of schools claims some current Ofsted inspectors have no teaching experience at all."
"Headteachers set to fight back over Ofsted inspections Anger over the new Ofsted regime has caused a big increase in complaints by headteachers about their reports. Now some are threatening to throw out inspectors they regard as incompetent."
Voice has frequently pointed out that "Ofsted has become too broad and unwieldy and has lost its focus":
"Ofsted has been heavily criticised over the years for its methods and practice by everyone from educationalists to MPs and more recently by Plymouth's Local Safeguarding Children Board. It has even been described as 'not fit for purpose'."
This certainly begs the question 'Who inspects the inspectors?'
Back in 1999, this union's own survey on inspections, Looking up the Microscope: a survey of teachers', lecturers' and nursery nurses' perceptions of the school and college inspection systems,* identified flawed judgements made by inexperienced or inappropriately experienced inspectors:
Q: "Were you aware if the inspectors were appropriately qualified?"
"There is clearly some difficulty in attracting appropriately qualified, and in this context we must also say experienced, personnel."
At FE level: "Imagine the chagrin of an electronics engineer being inspected by a structural engineer an expert in how electrons behave microelectronic, silicon-based circuitry being inspected by someone who has expert knowledge of large structures such as bridges and motorways: there is a serious mismatch here.
"At the other end of the scale we found inspectors asking to hear three year olds read and enquiring about their homework and teaching syllabuses, in what was clearly a play-led environment another drastic mismatch.
"Even the areas free from general problems experienced odd exceptions: 'Our inspector for geography was a PE specialist who also had taught sociology,' responded one member.
"Another, rather curious, report came from one of our language specialists: 'The inspector who inspected our Spanish teaching spoke to the students in Italian.'
"Even at primary level there were reports of unease by members at being inspected by inspectors who had spent their entire teaching career in secondary schools.
"We stressed the notion of experience. Frankly, there is no substitute for it. Although secondary inspectors may have undergone conversion courses, their inclination, training and experience have all been elsewhere. If that were not bad enough, we have the additional problem that this experience itself may well be, and often is, dated sometimes markedly so.
"We strongly hold the view that inspectors should regularly update their teaching experience."
This issue of experience has been an issue in Scotland recently, where Midlothian and East Lothian Councils (which are struggling to find primary school headteachers) devised a scheme to recruit secondary principal teachers to fill the posts, following a one year online course. It could be argued that the quality of senior management teams is more important than the specific-sector experience of the headteacher. Some skills are generic and transferable. However, others, like GTCS, are concerned about secondary teachers having little or no experience of the needs of very young children.
In language familiar from more recent comments on Ofsted, the 1999 report's conclusions include:
- "Ofsted should develop a more transparent, flexible and effective appeals system."
- "Ofsted should be clearly aware of the duty to praise success and encourage the raising of standards by positive means."
- "The inspection system should be made more context-sensitive and encourage positive feedback to schools."
- "The validity and reliability of Ofsted's judgements are, in our view, suspect they are inconsistent and lack objectivity."
- "We consider it essential for inspectors to have recent and relevant teaching experience "
- "The cost of inspection in human terms is deplorable and must be given urgent consideration.
- "We do not think that the present system of inspection is providing value for money."
- "We suggest that any inspector failing to obtain sufficient renewal teaching over a given time should be barred from inspecting."
Various practical suggestions for enabling the latter recommendation include:
- supply work;
- filling a paid temporary vacancy for a term;
- "an arrangement" for inspectors exchanging places with teachers, "enabling the latter to be trained as inspectors";
- "inspectors to cover for teachers who are taking sabbatical (study) leave; and
- inspectors being "twinned" with a teacher and taking over a portion of their timetable for a term.
The report also comments that, at the 1998 Annual Conference, members debated and passed the motion that:
"Conference believes that, apart from lay inspectors, all members of Ofsted teams should have experience of working in the sector to be inspected and that their experience should be regularly updated. Where this is not the case, schools should have the right to veto the team member."
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
How can Ofsted say:
"Let me take the speck out of your eye when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?"
Do let us know your thoughts
* Looking up the Microscope respondents (1999):
- Maintained sector: 87.8%
- Independent: 6.6%
- Further and Higher Education (FHE): 5.6%
- Nursery: 8.4%
- Primary: 56%
- Middle: 1.1%
- Secondary: 14.6%
- Special: 6.8%
- FHE: 5.6%
- Independent: 6.6%
- England: 86.1%
- Scotland: 10.5%
- Wales: 3%
- Northern Ireland: 0.3%
- Ofsted: 87%
- HMI: 9%
- Others: 4%
Data exclude independent sector. Majority of FHE respondents inspected by Further Education Funding Council (FEFC).