Conservatives pledge to boost Ofsted rather than scrap it

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The Conservatives are promising to strengthen England’s education watchdog Ofsted, as they attack Labour and Liberal Democrat plans to replace the current inspection system.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is announcing plans for longer inspections and an extra £10m funding for Ofsted.

There will also be trials of “no-notice inspections”, where schools could be visited without any prior warning.

But Labour and the Lib Dems want to replace Ofsted with different bodies.

The Conservatives are announcing a clear dividing line in their policy on schools, while opposition parties are moving in the opposite direction and wanting to end the watchdog’s role in monitoring school standards.

No-notice inspections

Mr Johnson says there will be an extra day added to inspections of secondary and large primary schools to focus on behaviour, bullying and extra-curricular activities, such as sport.

He will also announce a pilot of inspections without any notice – an idea previously floated and then rejected because of concerns that inspectors could arrive on days when none of the relevant senior staff was present.

The idea behind “no-notice” inspections had been to reveal the unvarnished reality of schools, rather than giving staff a few hours to prepare.

Mr Johnson will also confirm plans to end the exemption, introduced by Conservative education ministers, that saw “outstanding” schools not having to face regular inspections.

“Ofsted is an independent and trusted source of information for parents and teachers and their inspections help to raise standards in our schools,” said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

He said that Labour’s plan to scrap Ofsted would leave parents without “reliable information about the performance of their child’s school”.

‘Unfit for purpose’

But Labour has argued that Ofsted is “unfit for purpose” and needs to be replaced by a more effective body for checking standards.

It would remove grades for schools – such as outstanding, good or inadequate – and would set up a new organisation to inspect them.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has warned that too often, Ofsted judgments were a reflection of “the affluence of a school’s intake and the social class of its pupils – not the performance of the school”.

The Liberal Democrats say they would replace Ofsted with a new “HM Inspector of Schools”, with inspections every three years.

They want inspections to put a greater emphasis on broader factors, such as “social and emotional development of children” and the well-being of pupils.

The Public Accounts Committee warned last year that Ofsted had faced a significant cut in the value of its budget – which was £132m in 2018-19.

The MPs warned that the amount spent on inspecting schools had fallen by 52% in real terms between 1999-2000 and 2017-18.



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