Labour’s Ofsted plans ‘logical evolution’, says Spielman

'It is completely rational for a potential alternative government to be thinking about things like this'

'It is completely rational for a potential alternative government to be thinking about things like this'

17 Mar 2023, 8:00

Labour’s plans to ditch Ofsted grades in favour of a report card could be the “logical evolution” of how school and college performance is communicated, Amanda Spielman has said.

The chief inspector told FE Week it was “completely rational for a potential alternative government to be thinking about things like this”, after shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson set out her reform proposals at the weekend.

Labour has said it will consult on scrapping the current system of four grades, opting instead for a report card that shows what schools, colleges and training providers do well and what they need to do to improve.

The party has not said what metrics will feature on the card.

Quizzed on the proposals this week, Spielman said it sounded “mainly presentational”, putting information in a different way.

“It sounds like a sort of logical evolution of everything that gets drawn together in performance tables at the moment.”

Spielman said she “constantly talks” about the purposes of inspection “and that how both the inspection that you design – and how you report it – depends on what those policy purposes are”.

“It’s completely rational for a potential alternative government to be thinking about things like this. I don’t think anybody has the slightest discomfort about that.”

But she said “we have overall judgments because of the different purposes that inspection is serving”.

“There’s been… a strong perception that parents want the simplicity and clarity of an overall judgment in schools, for example, and that governments want handles to justify both incentives…and legitimacy for interventions with poor performers in FE.

“I’m sure that Labour will be thinking about how they would want those to work in a new system. But there are many aspects of inspection that are determined by those policy purposes. So it is rightly for ministers to determine what those policy purposes are.”

Spielman leaves the watchdog at the end of this year after seven years at the helm.

Labour’s proposed changes will therefore be left to another chief inspector to implement, but Spielman said she was glad to see education issues debated.

“I feel we’ve had so many years when, between Brexit and Covid and cost of living, there’s been little space for people to think and talk about moving education forward.”

Labour has long pledged to re-assess how education providers are graded with Ofsted expected to turn its focus to improvement under a Labour government. The length and frequency of inspections is also expected to be up for review.

Announcing the party’s proposals at the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leders in Birmingham at the weekend, Phillipson said Labour would “bring a wind of change … and drive forward reform of education and of childcare as part of our mission to break down barriers to opportunity”.

She said Labour would consult “very quickly” on the changes if it formed the next government.

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One comment

  1. Phil Hatton

    It is not evolution as it has been used on inspection before, with the previous scorecard being referred to as the ‘bingo card’, where several grades were given for each area reported on. It was a cumbersome task that inspectors were glad to see the back of as it took away from identifying what was really good and what if improved, would have the greatest impact on learners. If Labour want to adopt previous practice I suggest looking at the good (and poor) practice 100 word boxes in TSC reports. They made reports worthwhile to read for the sector as their adoption made a positive difference.