National Education Union writes to Amanda Spielman

Ms Amanda Spielman
HMCI Ofsted
Clive House
70 Petty France
London
SW1H 9EX
 
15 March 2020
 
Ofsted inspections and COVID-19
 
Dear Amanda,
 
As Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union, we are writing to urge you to cease routine Ofsted inspections of schools in England and to confine inspections only to those schools where there are safeguarding concerns.
 
After Friday’s crass Ofsted statement, we note the more emotionally intelligent statement on Saturday, that Ofsted is monitoring the situation closely and is in daily contact with the DfE.
 
We agree with your observation that: ‘The spread of COVID-19 poses serious challenges to schools, colleges, childcare and social care providers – not least the potential impact on attendance and staffing.’
 
However, we are very concerned, given the serious challenges that COVID-19 poses for schools, that Ofsted is still planning to conduct inspections. We fail to understand that, in light of the Government’s decision to move to the ‘delay’ phase, Ofsted has revised its deferral policy to defer inspections on providers that are ‘affected’.
 
We have to ask the question – can you name any school in England which has not been affected by COVID -19?
 
Even if there are no reported cases in schools, all leaders and staff are highly alert and responding to a range of pressing concerns and issues about the management of COVID-19, all of which involve changes to school routines and an intensification of already excessive workloads.
 
These responses include:

  • Responding to and managing parental and student anxiety about the virus
  • Implementing the frequent and multiple changes in the DfE guidance on COVID-19
  • Ensuring schools and pupils are as safe as they can be from becoming infected or transmitting the virus
  • Making special arrangements for vulnerable students and staff
  • Planning work for students in the event of school closures

We note that the Scottish inspectorate has taken a different approach.  It has suspended school inspections and has made the following, sensible and reassuring statement: ‘During this period, we believe it is vitally important that staff working in education can focus entirely on their establishment, on supporting their colleagues, pupils and local community, and provide support where needed.’
 
We urge Ofsted to take the same course of action – suspend school inspections now so that School Leaders can focus on what is important, not what is immediate.
 
Yours sincerely         
 
Dr Mary Bousted                                             Kevin Courtney
Joint General Secretary                                Joint General Secretary