The National Education Union has launched major new guidance for members who are undergoing Ofsted inspections.

This is in response to the volume of complaints we have received about school inspections since September 2019, when Ofsted introduced a new framework, designed, in part, to reduce teachers’ workload and stress. Members tell us that, instead, workload is going up. The NEU’s guidance advises members on their contractual responsibilities in light of the new framework.

Primary schools in particular are bearing the brunt of the new framework. Ofsted expects subject leaders to know how well teachers are implementing the curriculum across the school, but in too many schools, teachers are having to take on curriculum responsibilities without additional pay or time for management duties. Without significant extra funding and changes to staffing, this is unlikely to change.

In a letter to HMCI Amanda Spielman we have pointed to the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), statutory guidance which all schools should follow, which states that teachers cannot be expected “to take on the responsibility of, and accountability for, a subject area or to manage other teachers without appropriate additional payment. Responsibilities of this nature should be part of a post that is in the leadership group or linked to a post which attracts a TLR [payment]” (2019 STPCD Section 3 para 48) (1)

Members are telling us that, despite this, they are being “grilled” by inspectors about the sequencing of subjects across the school. One member asks, “How can they say they’re trying to reduce workload and then introduce this?” Ofsted currently makes no consideration in its inspections of the effects of real-terms school cuts and the impact on school leaders’ staffing decisions.

Launching the guidance, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary, National Education Union, said:

“With its new framework, Ofsted has completely failed to make good on its promises of a more constructive relationship between inspectorate and workforce.

“The new inspection framework has clearly been designed with secondary school management structures and resources in mind. In primary schools, a teacher who takes on two or even three ‘subject leads’ can now be expected to be grilled by Ofsted inspectors in a manner that gives no consideration to their diverse and heavy workload, nor their employment status. This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding as to how primary schools function, and those same schools are often punished for the inspectorate’s ignorance.

“Our members describe Ofsted visits as a ‘brutal process’, which drives many out of the profession - terrible in a time of deep crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. Ofsted's sweeping assessments rarely give the information parents really need. The workload and stress levels created by an inspection are often intolerable, and the effects of this new framework on the curriculum are a growing concern.

“Ofsted is attempting an impossible task – to address the catalogue of errors in its past. But they are doomed from the start – members cannot trust in the quality of the inspection teams, nor the premise on which the inspections are built.

“This new framework is not fit for purpose, and by definition nor is Ofsted. With this guidance we are reminding members of their rights and assuring them that the National Education Union will continue to act as the watchdog’s watchdog until Ofsted is abolished altogether.”

Editor’s Note

  1. The full text of our letter to Amanda Spielman is available here.