Select Committee on Education and Skills Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Louise Cuffaro and Sue Giddens (OFS 05)

  We are responding (as NUT school representative and as teacher governor respectively) to inform the Commission of concerns and issues that staff have raised with us during the course of, and immediately following, our recent OFSTED Inspection.

  We recommend the urgent introduction of more time, better mechanisms and procedures to improve OFSTED inspections. Such measures could include:

  1.  Adequate time for feedback to alleviate the stress experienced by staff.

  2.  Delivery of a higher quality of feedback.

  3.  Time and procedures to investigate and satisfactorily resolve complaints (and where necessary to amend individual results and the written report) before publication.

  4.  Review criteria by which schools are compared and ensure "a level playing field."


  Staff feel unhappy about the lack of time for proper and helpful feedback. Primary teachers have fully timetabled days. Feedback during OFSTED is made more stressful because it has to be squeezed in at playtime, dinnertime or in the switch over from one lesson to another. Sometimes it is necessary to wait until the end of the school day or even until the next day. This lack of time (albeit acknowledged by the inspectors who themselves are constrained by getting to their next observation or interview) leads to inadequate and unsatisfactory feedback from the staff's point of view.


  Irrespective of when the feedback occurs, staff feel that the lack of time leads to inadequate feedback both on individual teacher's lessons and post holder interviews. Staff wish to have qualitative and informative feedback which should be advisory as well as inspectoral. The role of the inspectors should be extended to ensure that inspections are not just for the sake of inspection. Feedback could and should include practical advice based on the inspector's own experience (gained through teaching the subject themselves) and experience gathered during the course of the other inspections that they have carried out in primary schools "comparable" in area and intake etc.


During the Inspection

  There are issues that arise for staff that give grounds to pursue a complaint about the process or procedures. E.g. the total length of one day's observation may be over ½ day but you cannot complain until after it has happened.

  Such deviation from good practise has a knock on effect on teachers not only for the rest of the day but also for the rest of the OFSTED. Staff feel aggrieved that such scenarios may skew their final grading.

After the Inspection

  Staff receive slips of paper, that record the lessons that were observed and their gradings. There is often inconsistency between the oral and written feedback. There is no direct, immediate and clear mechanism by which to resolve complaints.

  Furthermore even if complaints are upheld or found to be justified, the current procedures and timescale do not prevent the publication of the final report. Staff suffer unnecessary stress as a result of the publication of reports before all complaints have been investigated and satisfactorily resolved.


  The current system of banding schools together solely by the criteria of the number of free school dinners is inadequate. It takes no account of factors that effect many schools (including ours):

    —  High pupil mobility

    —  Low uptake by many families of their right to free school meals

    —  High proportions of children for whom English is a second language

    —  High number of children recently arrived in the country

    —  Inclusion Policies (these differ between L.A.s and effect the numbers of children with high levels of Special Needs within classes).

  These factors may not be prevalent, and/or the data relating to them may not be available, in all areas but there should be a way of taking them into account for schools where they do occur.

  Discussion between staff in our school and staff in other schools shows that there is inconsistency between inspections.


  Teaching is stressful.

  Inspections are stressful.

  On top of this, teachers are experiencing unacceptable levels of stress during OFSTED, associated with the factors outlined above. (OFSTED leads to teachers leaving, or wishing to leave, the profession.)

  We believe that urgent action, in line with the above recommendations, would alleviate stress and enhance the credibility of OFSTED amongst our staff and others.

  OFSTED should be seen to be fair, consistent and useful to schools. It should not be yet another —or even the worst - stress known to teachers.

November 2001

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