5 Experiences and mechanics of inspection |
Ofsted and stress
90. It is, of course, the case that any form
of examination or inspection has stress, as one witness told us,
"built into the system".
To a degree, we believe that an element of stress is, as the same
witness said, "never going to go away"
from inspection, and indeed it could be argued that an element
of that inevitable stress is, to quote another witness, "probably
how life is and should be",
and makes settings focus more keenly on their potential weaknesses
in advance of inspection.
91. However, an element of healthy stress is
a far cry from the "headteachers and governors hamstrung
by fear" which the Association of Teachers and Lecturers
drew our attention to with regard to Ofsted inspection. Serving
head teacher Lynn Jackson acknowledged that "the fear that
Ofsted brings is very much in every head's mind as soon as we
get that phone call."
Social workers appear to agree that Ofsted has "built a culture
of negativity around inspection."
92. We were particularly concerned to hear evidence
suggesting that the stressful impact of Ofsted inspection might
be deterring people from entering, or continuing in, their chosen
profession. Professor Nick Foskett of Keele University said to
I am certainly aware of quite a number of people
within ITE [initial teacher education] who have experienced quite
severe personal health issues as a result of their experiences
of Ofsted inspection, particularly where those judgements were
deemed to be unfair, unrealistic and based on inappropriate evidence
and where there was a high-stakes negative consequence that came
Similarly, Anthony Douglas of CAFCASS reported:
The impact of inspection... is profound on social
workers. It generally contributes to a low-level anxiety, which,
when you are doing very anxious work anyway, is a factor that
we need to be much more aware of. If we are not really careful,
we will drive people out of this work; they won't be coming into
Similarly, we read evidence which reported that inspection
can be stressful enough to produce negative results in an institution's
performance. Leslie Rosenthal, of the Department of Economics
at Keele University, has suggested that "the efforts required
by teaching staff in responding to the demands of the school inspection
system are great enough to divert resources from teaching so as
to affect pupil achievement in the year of the visit."
A study conducted by Hertfordshire secondary students reported
"a tenser relationship with their teachers" in advance
93. It is the responsibility
of the inspectorate to ensure that inspection processes are not
unduly burdensome, and the responsibility of those being inspected
to prepare for a process which may be stressful. The inspectorate
and the inspected should do everything possible to minimise any
negative impact of inspection on young people and learners.
94. Inspectors themselves considered the job
to be stressful: only 10% of those responding to our survey said
that inspection was not a stressful process for teams, although
a good number also said that pressure was an important part of
the job which they did not resent. The most common reason cited
for this was the lack of preparation time built into inspection
regimes. We suggest that
the new Chief Inspectors of Education and Children's Care, whilst
having due regard to the financial efficiency of their organisations,
consider how best to build further preparation time into inspection
Notice of inspections
95. Panels of witnesses were very split over
the subject of notice periods for inspections. Currently:
Schools receive between zero and two working days'
notice of a section 5 inspection, with most receiving between
one and two days notice. HMCI may arrange for any school to be
inspected without notice where there are particular reasons, such
as those connected to pupils' welfare, or where there are concerns
about safeguarding or rapid decline in performance. Monitoring
visits will be conducted without notice.
There are, however, some problems with no-notice
inspections, particularly in non-schools settings, as former HMCI
Maurice Smith explained to us:
We introduced no-notice inspection for early years,
so in early years inspectors turn up on the doorstep... that is
partly because early years are always there. We can't do it with
child minderswe've had a miss rate of 25%, because they've
gone to the park.
Sir Mike Tomlinson said that could also happen with
schools: "if you just pull up with no notice, there is the
possibility that the school is not in operation and you've wasted
an awful lot of public resource."
96. Despite this, Mr Smith went on to say that
he thinks "little or no notice works pretty well with schools",
and that in other settings inspectors "have the power and...
should use it occasionally."
His former HMCI colleague Lord Sutherland, however, noted that
"one thing you lose with no notice is the possibility of
a school saying that they have a particular issue on which it
would be very helpful to have an inspector's professional view",
although he too felt that "generally... the less notice,
97. Other witnesses were far less positive about
the merits of unannounced inspections. David Sherlock said that
giving three months notice provided time for "a dialogue
between the provider's nominee and the lead inspector", and
that this could bear significant fruits: "if the organisation
improved itself during those three months, because they knew that
an inspection was imminent, the learners benefited, and generally
speaking that improvement was permanent."
Christine Ryan agreed that with only two days' notice "you
have no opportunity to establish a dialogue with the school"
and expressed relief that the Independent Schools Inspectorate
was able to offer five days' notice.
98. One concern, however, associated with giving
notice of inspection is that it allows time for "window dressing"
by the setting.
For instance, one governor told us of a school which "having
received notice of inspection gave two days holiday to all the
pupils they did want the inspectors to meet."
Evidence suggests that young people themselves would also rather
be spared the notice period, as one headteacher notes:
I asked my pupils what their suggestion for an improvement
to the inspection process would be: they said that there should
be no notice given to schools. Inspectors should come and see
us as we are!
99. Despite Mr Smith's concerns about the cost
of unannounced inspections' "miss rate", witnesses from
the children's care side of the Ofsted house expressed support
for no notice inspections. Eleanor Schooling, representing the
Association of Directors of Children's Services, said that "once
you get used to the fact that it will be unannounced" it
is "an easier situation to be in."
Anthony Douglas of CAFCASS was more positive still about unannounced
inspections, for two reasons:
First, they don't cost as much. The announced full
monty is really an industry, and just too big. [But] unannounced
inspections... are not costing much, and I do not personally think
they should be confined to poorer-performing organisations, because
the best...can quickly become the worst, and the worst can quickly
become the best... A random, unannounced, focussed inspection...would
help us all.
100. On 16 February 2011, Ofsted launched a new
framework for the inspection of children's homes, which set out
that all future inspections will be unannounced.
101. We welcome the intention,
in the new framework for the inspection of children's homes, for
all future inspections of those settings to be unannounced. Whilst
we accept that for certain settings a notice period is appropriate,
we recommend that in the future little or no notice to providers
should be the norm. We believe that the disadvantages raised by
some witnesses are outweighed by the merits of unannounced inspection,
particularly in ensuring that inspectors see the setting as it
The role of school governors
in the inspection process
102. The recent Schools White Paper undertakes
to increase the recognition, support and attention of schools
governors, claiming that they are still not accorded the respect
Evidence from the National Governors' Association suggested that
"there is some concern that inspectors do not fully understand
governance or the role of governors."
The NGA "does not feel that governance is given sufficient
scrutiny" under the existing framework,
and we agree that it would be beneficial for inspectors and schools
to have a spotlight shone more brightly on governance arrangements.
We will return to this issue in the light of the new schools inspection
framework proposed by the Government, in Chapter 6.
103. The NGA also told us that it is not "entirely
clear" whether Ofsted reports to the head teacher or the
governors following an inspection.
There is a clear tension inherent in existing arrangements, as
the NGA notes:
The governing body is the accountable body in the
school and is responsible for disseminating the [inspection] report,
but it is not currently compulsory for governors to be invited
to the feedback session.
Similarly, we acknowledge that there is a tension
between including governors more and yet giving schools very little
notice of inspection: governors, of course, are not always on-site.
104. We agree with the National
Governors' Association that chairs of governors' attendance at
post-inspection feedback sessions should be encouraged by inspectors
(and preferably that of other governors as well). This is particularly
worthwhile in light of the changing responsibilities governors
will have in schools. Outside feedback sessions, the inspectorate
should have a clear policy of engaging governors as much as possible
throughout the inspection process.
Voluntary Childcare Register
105. As part of its regulation of childcare professionals,
Ofsted operates two registers. The Compulsory Register is for
childcare providers of children under the age of eight years,
although there are some exceptions. However, registration is not
compulsory if, amongst other reasons: care is provided for children
over eight only; care is provided for less than two hours a day;
care is provided in the child's own home; or you are part of a
home education arrangement, or are a foster parent.
106. For those for whom registration is not compulsory,
a Voluntary Childcare Register exists. We received evidence from
the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC)which
represents around 8,000 recruitment company branches and over
140 childcare recruitment agenciesthat the current operation
of that Register is seriously flawed:
A system of self-declaration (the applicant simply
ticking boxes to say they meet the criteria) appears to be acceptable
to Ofsted and they rely on a small number of physical inspections
each year to verify these... Nannies have also been found to be
producing false documents to support their application... [one]
nanny who had successfully registered on the Voluntary Childcare
Register had a false visa and was illegally working in the UK,
yet was able to produce a letter from Ofsted confirming her registration...
Once a nanny is registered, they receive a letter from Ofsted
confirming their registration. This has no expiry date on it,
which means that even if a nanny is "removed" from the
register, they would still have a letter to show to unsuspecting
The Confederation further explained to us that "the
name Ofsted has meant that parents view the register as a verification
that a nanny is suitable to work with children", even though
Ofsted - by its website's own admission - carries out minimal
checks. A survey
conducted by the REC and Mumsnet revealed that 67% (on a sample
of 1,000 mothers) saw Ofsted registration as a "thorough
stamp of approval."
107. In her oral evidence to this inquiry, the
Chief Inspector at Ofsted said the Voluntary Register "very
much concerns me, because I think it gives false reassurance to
She went on to acknowledge that Ofsted conducts "absolutely
minimal checks" on people applying to the Voluntary Childcare
Register, and encouraged Government to look into changing the
legislation surrounding it.
108. We agree with the Recruitment
and Employment Confederation that the current set-up of the Voluntary
Childcare Register is misleading and in need of very urgent reform.
We are concerned that the current procedures, far from providing
the public with a reliable system of registration and safeguarding,
might mislead parents by suggesting a level of quality assurance
that has not been undertaken. We urge the Government to improve
the existing Register, through legislation where necessary, and
to provide the public with a more reliable system for vetting
carers which provides greater scrutiny of applicants. In the meantime,
we recommend that Ofsted takes immediate action to improve the
existing systemsuch as adding expiry dates to letters of
Inspection of sixth form and
further education colleges
109. The Committee received written evidence
from the Sixth Form Colleges' Forum concerning the inspection
Ofsted use differentiated judgments which set different
standards for schools, FE colleges, other providers and Sixth
Form Colleges. If a sector, like Sixth Form Colleges, is high-performing,
then the standards are high and vice-versa. This means that a
school or FE College, judged outstanding, often has a lower performance
than a Sixth Form College judged good or even satisfactory. This
can happen where institutions are in close geographical proximity
and compete for students with each other.
When we investigated this further during oral evidence,
Lesley Davies, representing the Association of Colleges, supported
the Forum's statement, saying that the existing system offers
"completely different way[s] of looking at the same age group."
110. Ofsted itself, in oral evidence, acknowledged
that two different methods of data collection for college inspections
is not an ideal situation, saying that Ofsted "would welcomeand
it would be much easier for parents and learners to deal witha
level playing field in relation to data" for inspection of
colleges and school sixth forms.
Lord Hill, the responsible Minister at the Department for Education,
agreed on this issue that "the more we can have consistency,
111. We are concerned that the
current inspection processes for sixth forms, schools and colleges
are not consistent with each other, giving a potentially misleading
impression of those institutions' performance. The data used to
judge institutions need to be the same for students in the same
age groups, and we recommend that this is remedied as swiftly
131 Q 198 Back
Q 305 Back
Q 78 Back
Ev 148 Back
Q 197 Back
Q 276 Back
Rosenthal, L., 'The cost of regulation in education: do school
inspections improve school quality?' (Department of Economics,
University of Keele, 2001), quoted in MacBeath, J., 'A New Relationship
with Schools?', in de Waal, A. (ed.), Inspecting the Inspectorate
(Civitas, 2008) Back
See Macbeath, J., 'A New Relationship with Schools?', in de Waal,
A. (ed.), Inspecting the Inspectorate (Civitas, 2008) Back
Section 5 refers to section 5 of the Education Act 2005, under
which school inspections are carried out Back
Q 24 Back
Q 23 Back
Q 24 Back
Q 217 Back
Ev w239 Back
Ev w30 Back
Nanthabalan, B., 'The Experience of an 'Outstanding Provider'',
in de Waal, A. (ed.), Inspecting the Inspectorate (Civitas,
Q 257 Back
Q 259 Back
Framework available at http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/News/News-Archive/2011/February/New-inspection-system-to-improve-outcomes-for-children-living-in-children-s-homes Back
See The Importance of Teaching-The Schools White Paper 2010,
p. 71 Back
Ev 120 Back
Ev 122 Back
Ev 121 Back
More information on the Early Years and Childcare Registers can
be found at http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/Forms-and-guidance/Browse-all-by/Care-and-local-services/Childcare#childcareRegister Back
Ev w149 Back
See http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/Forms-and-guidance/Browse-all-by/Care-and-local-services/Childcare#childcareRegister Back
Ev w149 Back
Q 406 Back
Q 406-Q409 Back
Ev w73 Back
Q 427 Back
Q 482 Back