William Eichler 07 September 2018

Ofsted ‘fig leaf’ for Whitehall failures on school standards

Ofsted ‘fig leaf’ for Whitehall failures on school standards    image

Ofsted is not providing the level of independent assurance about the quality of education that schools and parents need, MPs warn.

The Public Accounts Committee has criticised the performance of the organisation responsible for auditing schools, arguing it is ‘undermining’ the ability of families to make informed decisions about their children’s education.

The committee said Ofsted had completed fewer inspections than planned, failed to meet its targets for how often schools should be inspected, and was leaving schools for longer between inspections.

Ofsted’s budget has been cut significantly in recent years — a fact the PAC acknowledged — and the amount it spent on inspecting the schools sector fell by 52% in real terms between 1999–2000 and 2017–18.

Despite the cuts, however, there had still been ‘clear shortcomings’ in Ofsted’s performance, committee chair, Meg Hillier MP, insisted.

‘If the level of inspection continues to be eroded there is a risk that Ofsted will come to be perceived by parents, Parliament and taxpayers as not relevant or worse, simply a fig leaf for Government failures on school standards,’ she said.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman responded that, as with other areas in the public sector, they had been forced to do ‘more with less’.

‘I remain confident that our inspections provide parents, schools and the Government with the assurance they need about school standards and that we do so in a way that compares very favourably in terms of quality and value for money with school inspection regimes internationally,’ said Ms. Spielman.

‘However, as I said at the hearing, we have reached the limit in terms of being able to provide that level of assurance within our current funding envelope.

‘That is why, with our ongoing framework review, we are looking at how to ensure that schools and parents get everything they need from our reports, and why many of the committee’s recommendations are already long in train.’

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