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The hidden implications of the Ofsted inspection

Are Ofsted inspections an overbearing pressure for teachers? Source: Shutterstock

For many teachers across the UK, the term ‘Ofsted’ is met with mixed reactions.

Otherwise known as the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, Ofsted has the ability to provoke feelings of anxiety for educators, and the authority to paint schools in a negative or positive light.

When an Ofsted inspector visits a school, they’ll be assigned to either one or a couple of teachers’ lessons to watch from the sidelines.

Rating schools and educators on their learning approaches, the rate of student engagement, classroom layouts and more, there are many elements that tips a school’s scale from satisfactory to excellent.

In the most recent Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, illuminates the pros and pitfalls of the 2017/2018 academic year for schools in the UK.

“I have been struck by how enthusiastically teachers, lecturers and social workers are discussing and debating how to improve their practice on the back of evidence-based research, including Ofsted reports and surveys.

“I have seen a really positive response to the focus we are bringing on the substance of the education – the curriculum. Across all the sectors we inspect and regulate, there is a real understanding that we need to regain our focus on substance: to teach an academic curriculum, to improve social care practice, to open up a range of future careers to young people,” Spielman explains.

Noting educators’ enthusiasm, it seems as though teachers and professors are welcoming Ofsted inspectors with open arms.

However, in contrast with this month’s Teacher well-being at work in schools and further education providers Ofsted report, there’s evidence of differing opinions.

According to the report’s summary, teachers revealed two sources of imminent stress; parents and Ofsted inspections.

“Relationships with parents can be a negative factor and a source of stress. This can be due to a range of reasons: unrealistic parental expectations for their child/children which could lead to excessive pressure on staff; the frequency of emails from parents and an expectation for an instant response; and parents raising concerns or complaints inappropriately.”

Feeling pressured by parents is an added implication of stress for many teachers, not just in the UK, but around the world.

Alongside meeting the standards that teachers place upon their shoulders, they also have parents peering into lessons and carefully watching how their children are taught.

But the pivotal point of the report is the evidence of Ofsted causing extra stress.

In their own report, Ofsted outlines that this is caused by inspections increasing the administrative workload and an excessive focus on data and exam results, “Which narrows educators’ focus to test outcomes rather than a quality education.”

Working hard to alleviate those negative effects, Ofsted claims to be promoting myth-busting campaigns and re-styling their framework to release the extra pressure that teachers experience.

Nonetheless, if teachers are struggling to hold up the weight of Ofsted stress (as Ofsted’s report shows), shouldn’t there be an immediate restructuring of the system?

At the end of the school day, the most important factor of any child’s education is their individual happiness and progress.

Despite Ofsted inspectors analysing the progress of a whole class and quality of teachers, it’s also important to factor in the learner’s perspective.

A moment in time – what Ofsted inspectors see in one day or one week – may not necessarily reflect a full school year.

To alleviate the added stress, perhaps there needs to be a shift of attention from a teacher’s performance onto the implications of Ofsted, or an equal balance of the two.

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