Parents have lost faith in Ofsted, LGA claims


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The Independent Online

Public confidence in the schools watchdog Ofsted has plummeted and an independent review is needed to restore parents’ faith in inspectors’ judgements, council leaders warn today.

Ofsted’s “objectivity and reliability” have been called into question by a series of controversies as well as dramatic U-turns on inspection judgments, according to the Local Government Association (LGA) which represents more than 370 councils.

The schools watchdog’s reputation has been undermined by its habit of reinspecting schools after they have hit the headlines, only to downgrade them from “good” or “outstanding” to “inadequate”, the LGA said.

Five schools involved in the so-called Trojan Horse plot in Birmingham were among institutions across the country which have been downgraded to “inadequate”, the lowest Ofsted category, in some cases in less than a year. Haringey Council’s children services were downgraded from “good” to “inadequate” only after the Baby P scandal had been revealed.

The LGA is calling for an independent review of the schools watchdog, arguing that the controversy has brought the inspectorate’s judgments into question and that it is vital “to understand what has gone wrong” and to reestablish the organisation’s credibility.

Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Too many controversies have threated Ofsted’s independence and credibility. Mums and dads put their trust in Ofsted’s ratings when they pick a school for their children and its inspections can have implications for the most vulnerable children in our care.

“Councils, communities and parents need to know Ofsted and the chief inspector are independent and free from political influence and we need an independent review to discover what has gone wrong and restore faith in what is fast becoming a media-driven organisation.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "Ofsted is not doing what it should, which is to get beneath the data and find out what is really happening in schools. Too often, overworked and underskilled inspectors have time merely to confirm what the data already tells us, copy some narrative from a previous report and rush on to the next school.

"The LGA is right that a fundamental review is needed. Inspection should be about expert judgment and quality feedback which leads to improvement or the massive expenditure is wasted in what amounts to a public relations exercise."