Jeremy Corbyn believes that Ofsted is putting too much pressure on teachers and is driving them out of the profession.
If he wins the election on December 12, the Labour Party Leader plans to scrap the government body in favour of a ‘light-touch’ operation run by local councils.
TUXtra reporter Sam Fletcher investigates Corbyn’s plan, with help from an NASUWT official and representatives from two Teesside schools.
Speaking to The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One, Mr Corbyn said: “We are losing almost as many teachers as we are recruiting every year because of the levels of stress that we are under.”
But do the statistics back up his argument?
It would seem they do. Findings published at last years NEU NUT Section Conference in Brighton, showed that:
81% of teachers said they have considered leaving teaching in the last year because of the pressures of workload
40% of respondents are spending more than 21 hours a week working at home at evenings and weekends
More than 80% are now teaching more hours than the average teaching hours in 2016
The Teacher Labour Market in England Report 2019 discovered that teachers rank lower for job satisfaction when compared to similar professions (graph right).
The Report also found that one in five teachers (20 per cent) feel tense about their job most or all of the time, compared to 13 per cent of similar professionals.
With teaching already being a high-pressured job, a survey carried out by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) found that 90 per cent of teachers felt that an Ofsted inspection had created additional stresses for them.
Only seven per cent of respondents felt that inspections supported school improvement and nearly half believed it did not.
This would correlate with Corbyn’s argument that: “the level of stress on students and teachers is absolutely enormous.”
To tackle the stresses associated with teaching, the Labour Leader proposes a new system for scrutinising schools.
He said: “What we want instead is a more frequent form of supportive investigation of schools, an examination of them through HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspectors) but also through local authorities.”
“It is part of reinvigorating local education authorities to administer all schools within their community area.”
Do teachers agree with Corbyn’s proposition?
Darren Northcott is the National Official for Education at the NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers).
Mr Northcott argues that while Ofsted is needed to make schools and teachers accountable, the government body often puts unnecessary pressure on teachers and pupils.
He said: “It is clear that teachers and students can experience pressure associated with the inspection process. “
“To some extent, this is inevitable but it is essential that such pressure is not excessive or debilitating.
“While schools should be subject to inspection, they should always be inspected on the right things in the right ways.
“In many respects, the inspection system has not met this critical test.”
The Ofsted system works on a grading scheme where schools are ranked from Outstanding to Inadequate based on an inspection.
This inspection lasts for two days and schools are given 48 hours warning, prior to an inspection. But the grading system itself, is something Mr Northcott takes issue with.
He said: “The current four-level grading system is not fit for purpose.”
“It is a significant shortcoming of the current inspection system.
“The role of inspection should be to assess whether or not a school is providing and acceptable standard of education.
“This is a basic ‘yes/no’ question.”
The pressures caused from teaching are highlighted through the current rates of teacher retention. The SFR national statistics (above) show that less than 65% of newly qualified teachers are still in the profession seven years later.
Moreover, one in ten teachers also drop out of the job only 12 months after graduating.
A report from the Guardian indicated that 18 per cent of teachers plan to leave the profession within the next two years. There is quite clearly a crisis in terms of teacher recruitment with Ofsted blamed as one of the core problems.
What happens during an Ofsted inspection?
The NASUWT’s National Official for Education is clearly unhappy about the current Ofsted system and the extra pressures teacher’s endure throughout the inspection process. But to investigate further it’s necessary to understand the details of an Ofsted inspection and what goes on behind the scenes.
Melanie Downs is the Chair of Governors at Stockton-based school Macmillan Academy.
She explains what an Ofsted inspection was like for her when they visited in June 2017.
She said: “When an Ofsted inspection occurs we get informed by the Principal Secretary and are invited to be part of the panel for them to question about the performance of Macmillan.”
“It does help governors enormously because we are there to see that the head teacher and his senior leaders are accountable for what they do.
“Ofsted really helps them to put it into perspective, put it into categories, it might even highlight an area that they haven’t found out about.”
When asked about Jeremy Corbyn wanting to abolish Ofsted and putting it in the hands of local authorities, Melanie said: “I don’t support that view at all.”
“I can imagine that it would need a lot of bodies on the ground to actually do this and the inspectors are very experienced people and they know about teaching and education.
“The majority of them are teachers themselves or have been so they know where they’re coming from. I would be concerned that if it were members of the council that they wouldn’t be so experienced.
“I can honestly see over the 13 years I have been involved it has improved the standards of the school and it’s encouraged the teachers that they are actually doing a very good job.”
Does Ofsted need to be abolished?
John Downs is Deputy head at Teesside school Conyers and he gives his thoughts on Corbyn’s plans to abolish Ofsted…
3rd year Sports Journalism at Teesside University.