Ofsted – With great power comes great responsibility
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has used an article in TES (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) to expound the virtues and importance of the education watchdog.
In it she explained at length how Ofsted reports directly affect house prices, how the reports are viewed over 30 million times per year, and how the schools inspectorate is dedicated to listening to parents.
But Spielman’s determination to widen her brief risks going too far.
Spielman has been relentless in her pursuit of draconian powers to inspect out-of-school settings. Powers which would, in effect, have made Ofsted the state regulator of religion.
The inspectorate has been roundly criticised for its hostile anti-Christian inspections and for interpreting guidance to ‘promote British values’ as ‘celebrate LGBT lifestyles.’
This track record is a strong indicator that church youth groups teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, as it has been understood for millennia, could have been labelled a breeding ground for ‘extremist’ views.
What’s more, in her piece, Spielman completely glosses over the fact that despite claiming it wants what is best for parents and schools, Ofsted is following its own politically correct agenda.
Not long ago, the Chief Inspector called on headteachers to promote “muscular liberalism” in schools, and warned against listening to conservative voices such as The Christian Institute.
Institute Director Colin Hart had to point out that Britain has a proud history of liberalism – including the freedom to disagree – and said that Spielman’s “muscular liberalism” must not be taken to mean “aggressive secularism”.
Because that certainly appears to be what Amanda Spielman had in mind – that traditional views on marriage and sexuality have no place in British schools.
The inspections body might claim to welcome parents’ input, but that resolve had clearly deserted it when Durham Free School was shut down despite parents’ protestations.
The report was highly contentious, with teachers calling it “unbalanced” and in many places inaccurate. One parent said: “I didn’t recognise the school described in the Ofsted report at all”.
Vishnitz Girls School, an Orthodox Jewish primary school, was failed last year because it didn’t teach LGBT issues.
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Parents have the right, on behalf of their children, to expect an education that conforms to their religious beliefs and is in compliance with the law.”
Sadly, all the evidence shows that Ofsted simply isn’t interested in hearing these complaints. Their complaints policy is anything but open and transparent.
Last year, a High Court judge ruled that Ofsted’s complaints process is “unfair” as he quashed a report which would have put a London school into special measures.
Judge McKenna noted that Durand Academy had no ability to ‘effectively challenge’ the report.
Ofsted, he said, does not permit an aggrieved party to challenge a report it “considers to be defective”.
Spielman is not entirely to blame for Ofsted’s opacity, but she has continued the legacy left by her predecessor Sir Michael Wilshaw.
If she wants to put parents first, she could start by abandoning her push for secularism and hold her own inspectors to account.