The president of the National Education Union has said that Ofsted “is and always has been a failed project” and was “absent without leave during the pandemic”.
Speaking at the NEU’s annual conference in Bournemouth on Monday, Daniel Kebede said that Ofsted was a “project that sends your workload rocketing and drives so much of the rot in education”.
“If what they did had any value they would prove it, but they have never published any evidence to prove that their inspections are accurate,” he said, adding that at a time of “rocketing child poverty” the inspectorate had been given a funding boost.
“Of you were absent without leaving during the pandemic. They were nowhere to be seen in our schools, and they were not missed,” he said.
The union is due to vote on a motion on Monday to establish an independent, NEU-backed commission on Ofsted to report on the reliability of its judgment inspections and to campaign for a new accountability system of “collaborative support” to replace the inspectorate.
Mr Kebede said that the “one thing that Ofsted can accurately measure is poverty”, with schools in more affluent areas four times more likely to be awarded an “outstanding” grade than those serving disadvantaged communities.
“Nothing showed their contempt for working-class children more than when (Ofsted chief) Amanda Spielman said that you spent too much time feeding children during the pandemic rather than educating them,” he added.
In a survey of 1,788 NEU members, just 5% of teachers in English state schools said they believed the inspectorate led to improvements in the education system, while 4% said Ofsted was independent of Government and 5% said it was a reliable judge of standards .
Three-quarters of respondents – 74% – said they associated Ofsted with “a huge amount” of “unnecessary” extra work, rising to 81% among nursery and primary teachers.
“The adversarial approach is demoralizing to both students, staff and parents,” one teacher commented.
Mr Kebede said he feared that Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi’s “unnecessary new guidelines on political impartiality will deter some of our colleagues from responding to them”.
“Mr Zahawi says that his intention is not to limit the ‘range of political issues that schools can and do teach about,’ but in practice his guidance will have the opposite effect,” he added.
The conference will also debate an emergency motion on Child Q, the black 15-year-old school girl who was strip searched by police at her school.
Mr Kebede said that what happened had not started with a strip search, but with “zero tolerance behavior policies, a system that disproportionately excludes black children”.
He said he did not believe the police could provide a pastoral role within schools, stating that the police “degraded, abused and humiliated Child Q”.
“Child Q was never in the possession of any drugs. However, I know a place where 11 in 12 toilets tested positive for cocaine. It’s a place where there is a 24-hour police presence. It’s called the Houses of Parliament. Why are you strip searching children and not strip searching MPs?” Mr Kebede asked.
He said that during the pandemic the country had the “worst possible Government at the worst possible time”, adding in reference to the controversial “partygate” scandal, “whilst you couldn’t even catch up with colleagues in a staffroom, this Government was sipping wine and eating cheese on the patio of Downing Street”.
I have added that the decision to run SATs in primary schools following the disruption of the pandemic was an “utterly brutal decision”.
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Parents and carers know that Ofsted acts in the best interests of children – and they value the work we do.
“Over the last 30 years, our work has helped raise standards across all the sectors we inspect. And, following the disruption and distress caused by the pandemic, that work is now more important than ever.”