Does Ofsted need Inspecting?

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Ofsted-logo-gov_ukTom Sherrington, Head of Highbury Grove School in North London, has complained of “enormous flaws and absence of proper validity trials” in the current Ofsted inspection system.

Mr Sherrington, writing in his own blog, had rejected the idea that schools “can be judged in a meaningful way via inspections”.

“By ‘judged’ I am not talking about an experienced visitor giving some insightful developmental feedback based on an analysis of the available data and their observations; no doubt there are some people out there who can do this well enough.

“I am talking about the process of distilling this mass of qualitative and quantitative information into a simple set of final grades, with one overall Judgement Grade,” wrote Mr Sherrington.

Somewhat surprisingly perhaps Ofsted seemed to agree. Mr Sean Harford, the watchdog’s national director for schools, admitted Ofsted does not currently ensure “directly that different inspectors in the school on the same day would give the same judgement”.

He also agreed “some inspectors and some schools focus too much on a narrow range of data”.

He said Ofsted trained its inspectors to use data as a “signpost”, rather than making it a “pre-determined destination”.

“But the weakest ones have been guilty of using the published data as a safety net for not making fully-rounded, professional judgements.”

He said inspectors should draw on information from the school itself, including pupils’ work over time, progress across year groups and classes, improvements to teaching, and pupils’ attitudes to learning.

Mr Harford said Ofsted’s pilots for its new short inspections would include reliability testing:  “If reliability is a problem, we will review the issues to see what we need to do to make the inspections reliable.”

Well if Ofsted can’t demonstrate reliability where does that leave the schools and other institutions it judges? You can read a longer report from the BBC here:


  1. in posting material like this the debate has to look at the original not quotes. So can we have the sources please preferably as links.

    Amazed Highbury Grove School is still going. Is it an academy? The school has its own niche in Black Paper dominated English schooling and the history of the school should be published.

    Trevor Fisher.


  2. What is amazing is that this debate, in some 25 years, has never been properly had.

    From the outset, Ofsted has made crucial (and critical in both senses) judgments without the establishing the key criteria of validity and reliability in the measuring process. The objectivity of the process has thus been flawed from the outset, compounding the underlying lack of those essential qualities in the slippery data of SATS and other testing, with classifications, scales, targets etc. moving around like drunken goal posts.

    A bit late to recant.


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