Labour proposes ‘report card’ to replace Ofsted grades

Bridget Phillipson will say schools and colleges deserve better 'than a system that is high stakes for staff, but low information for parents'

Bridget Phillipson will say schools and colleges deserve better 'than a system that is high stakes for staff, but low information for parents'

11 Mar 2023, 0:01

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A Labour government will consult on scrapping Ofsted’s current grading system and replacing it with a new “report card” for schools and further education if it wins the next election.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson will announce the move at the annual conference of school and college leaders’ union ASCL today, pledging to bring about a “wind of change to our education system”.

Labour would look to replace the current system, which grades providers between ‘outstanding’ and ‘inadequate’, with a report card which would offer information on performance.

But the move would be subject to consultation in both the schools and FE sectors.

Phillipson will say parents, schools and colleges “deserve better than a system that is high stakes for staff, but low information for parents”.

She will add that report cards will give a better understanding of where a provider can be better, and in which areas it is improving.

Move comes amid ongoing scrutiny of system

Labour’s plans come as a growing body of evidence, particularly looking at the schools system, challenges the usefulness of current Ofsted grades. 

Recent research from FFT Education Datalab suggested Ofsted grades were “not particularly useful” for parents choosing secondary schools because of the infrequency of inspections.

Meanwhile, polling from Public First in December found just 48 per cent of parents know their child’s school’s overall effectiveness grade.

And think-tank EDSK proposed in November that inspection of apprenticeships should be taken out of Ofsted’s hands altogether and training inspections should instead by a new specialist apprenticeship inspectorate. 

Labour also pointed to research by the University of Southampton and UCL which showed female Ofsted inspectors are more likely to hand out harsher grades for primary schools than their male counterparts.

While researchers have not examined the influence of Ofsted grades in post-16 settings, the Labour Party have confirmed to FE Week that their plans will apply and the sector will be consulted on its implementation. 

Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman attempted to address concerns over how inspectors arrive at judgments during the Birmingham conference on Friday.

Labour has already pledged to reform inspectorate

Labour has long pledged to re-assess how schools and colleges are graded by the watchdog as part of proposed reforms.

Ofsted is expected to turn its focus to school and college improvement under a Labour government, with the length and frequency of inspections also up for review.

“The next Labour government will bring a wind of change to our education system…and drive forward reform of education and of childcare as part of our mission to break down barriers to opportunity,” Phillipson will say.

“Because I am determined that under Labour the focus will again return, to how we deliver a better future for every child, through high and rising standards in every school.” 

Annual safeguarding review planned

The party also plans to introduce a new annual review of safeguarding, with Phillipson saying the safety of children is too important to be left to infrequent inspections.

It comes after the Everyone’s Invited movement in 2021 exposed the breadth of sexual harassment in schools, colleges and universities.

A subsequent Ofsted review found over 90 per cent of girls had been subject to sexist language, sexual harassment and online sexual abuse from other students.

But speaking in an earlier discussion, Spielman said she would be “very nervous about creating a whole separate system” of safeguarding inspections.

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  1. “…schools and colleges deserve better than a system that is high stakes for staff…”

    Quite so. And students deserve better than a high stakes system too. Especially when that system delivers grades that , to quote Ofqual’s own words, are “reliable to one grade either way”.

    Ofsted’s grading system isn’t the only one in great need of reform. So does Ofqual’s.