The government was accused of having “strange ideas” about catching up priorities in education after Ofsted was ordered to speed up school inspections.
The watchdog has received a funding boost of nearly £ 24m to expedite visits to all schools and colleges in England and says it should now take a year less to cover all the settings.
The government said all schools and colleges should be inspected by 2025 to “give a faster estimate of how well education is recovering from the Covid pandemic”.
However, the boost to school inspections has been criticized by school principals who cast doubts as to whether this is the best way to help students recover from the Covid disruption.
“We have to say that the government has some strange ideas about the priority of education recovery,” said Julie McCulloch of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
“It is not Ofsted inspections that are helping children catch up on the learning loss caused by the pandemic, but rather to ensure that schools and colleges have sufficient government funding to run recovery programs as needed.”
The union’s policy director added: “At the moment, many schools and colleges are still grappling with the disruption caused by the pandemic and the prospect of having to deal with a visit from an inspection team is not particularly helpful.”
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of NAHT school leaders’ union, said the announcement was “completely deaf” to the “pressure” the schools are under and calls for inspections to be suspended this semester.
“We are still very far from normal school operations,” he added.
Department of Education (DfE) figures estimated that 130,000 students in England failed to attend school for a Covid-related reason last week, with over half of those students testing positive for the virus.
Following Ofsted’s announcement, Dr. Mary Bousted, Joint Secretary General of the National Education Union (NEW): “The government ministers show once again that they have no understanding of the exhaustion and stress experienced by teachers and leaders.
“Inspections add significantly to the stress they are exposed to in dealing with the high rates of Covid infection in schools and colleges.”
A former national school commissioner said Tuesday he was “concerned about the stress” on school principals under pressure from anti-Vaxxers, Covid absences and Ofsted.
“We need these people more than ever and I’m afraid if we don’t look after them we could lose some brilliant leaders in 2022,” tweeted Sir David Carter.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said: “Everyone who works in education must do everything possible to give this generation the best possible chance to reach their potential.”
She added, “Ofsted will do its part – by providing updated information to parents and learners, and by helping schools and colleges with their plans.”
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Nobody underestimates the extent of the challenge that schools, universities and other education providers have experienced from the pandemic.”
He said, “The acceleration of Ofsted inspections in the coming years will provide parents with an up-to-date picture and faster recognition of the hard work of managers and teachers.”
Additional reporting by PA