British Queen celebrates

An inquiry led by former schools minister Lord Jim Knight, funded by the National Education Union, has proposed a significant overhaul in school inspections, urging a departure from Ofsted


The Beyond Ofsted inquiry calls for a transformative change in the system, suggesting that schools should take charge of their improvement plans instead of relying on Ofsted inspectors. According to the report, this shift is necessary as Ofsted is viewed as "toxic" and "not fit for purpose," requiring substantial reform.

One of the key recommendations is for schools to cease being subjected to single-word judgments such as "outstanding" or "inadequate," deeming them oversimplified to portray a school's overall performance. This aligns with the Institute for Public Policy Research's proposal advocating for narrative-style assessments instead.

The inquiry's proposals come amidst discussions triggered by the tragic suicide of head teacher Ruth Perry, shedding light on the pressure and impact of inspections on schools.

Lord Knight's report recommends schools conduct their own "self-evaluations" in collaboration with external "improvement partners," experienced school leaders from the school's trust or local authority, to assess performance.

It also suggests separate annual assessments of safeguarding practices overseen by a new national body, detaching Ofsted from direct school contact and limiting its role to assessing school management.

Acknowledging the significance of inspections in ensuring high educational standards, a Department for Education spokesperson emphasized that 89% of schools are currently rated good or outstanding. However, Lord Knight argues that the existing system has instilled a culture of fear in schools, hindering sustainable improvement.

The inquiry highlights the strain on Ofsted due to being under-resourced for its demanding role, with inspections shifting from extensive week-long analyses to concise assessments by a handful of inspectors.

While nine out of ten schools acknowledge the benefits of inspections in aiding improvement, Ofsted maintains its commitment to constructive experiences during inspections, emphasizing the inspectors' understanding of the challenges faced by school staff. Photo by Liz, Wikimedia commons.