Ofsted should scrap ‘outstanding’ rating, report suggests

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The schools accountability system limits ambition, incentivises self-interest and diverts attention from teaching and learning, the NAHT said.

Ofsted should scrap its “outstanding” rating and replace it with a more robust system for identifying specific excellence, a report has recommended.

The school inspections body should also adopt a new role focusing on identifying failure, according to the Improving School Accountability report published by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

It said the current system limits ambition, incentivises self-interest and diverts attention from teaching and learning.

Nick Brook, NAHT’s deputy general secretary and the chairman of the association’s commission on accountability, said: “The way in which schools are being held to account is, on balance, doing more harm than good.

“NAHT’s Accountability Commission is intended to be a constructive contribution, to start a debate that is urgently needed on the future of school accountability.

“It cannot be right that teachers and leaders are put off working in schools in challenging areas because they simply do not believe that the inspection system will treat them fairly for doing so.”

He added that fear of accountability has changed how many schools are led and the recommendations would reduce many of the negative impacts associated with the system.


Suggesting the scrapping of the “outstanding” judgment, the report said it does not describe the pinnacle of educational excellence and there are few incentives to look beyond it.

Speaking at the launch of the report on Friday, Chief Inspector of Schools Amanda Spielman said: “There is only so much that can be done with data.

“It is worrying when any system becomes overreliant on data. We have seen the ways that things can go wrong.


“There isn’t a holy grail – we can see that balance is required.

“I have been very clear that we should be focused on what is happening in schools and what is being taught, what the substance of education is and how it is happening.”

The report makes nine recommendations including that comparative data should be used by Ofsted to inform judgments of school effectiveness.

It also suggests the body should commission research to ascertain the format and nature of inspection required, and that the Department for Education should use a “requires improvement” judgment as a trigger for funded support.

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