Ofsted is forcing schools to act in fear, CBI says

Fear of Ofsted inspections is forcing headteachers and their staff to act against their better judgement and at the expense of their students, the head of the CBI has warned.

John Cridland said that without proper reform, the watchdog was in danger of pushing weaker schools into “perverse” behaviour that stifles creativity and innovation.

The business leader, who also repeated his call for the government to scrap GCSEs in favour of a “gold standard” qualification at 18, said the changes announced by Ofsted this week were a step in the right direction but more needed to be done, and sooner.

“We need to assure quality throughout the process, rather than just inspecting it at the end of the production line. In weaker schools, fear of Ofsted drives behaviours, which leads to perverse outcomes instead of better ones,” he told an audience at the Festival of Education hosted by Wellington College in Berkshire.

Ofsted places too much emphasis on data, Mr Cridland added, meaning innovation would only come from “rebel headteachers”.

“Innovation still means rebellion, and it shouldn’t. Devolving control to schools could drive innovation and personalised learning, but the inspection regime too often means that teachers and heads don’t believe in these freedoms.”

Ofsted reforms should be welcomed, he added, but its approach should be transformed within three years.

It emerged today that the watchdog had purged about 40 per cent of its contracted inspectors in a bid to improve the quality of its school visits.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, announced on Monday that there would be a new regime of “lighter touch” inspections for schools judged as being “good”.

The NUT welcomed Mr Cridland’s comments, stating it chimed with its own research that schools were becoming “exam factories”.

“As NUT-commissioned research this Easter showed, students are becoming conditioned to view schools as places where tests and exams are sat, to the exclusion of anything else,” NUT general secretary Christine Blower said. “This cannot be right. The tyranny of testing has all but squeezed out the space which teachers require to ensure that every child in their class is excited by education.”

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