Davies: Inspection during covid is a ‘brake rather than a rocket-booster’

New NAHT President and head teacher of Waunarlwydd Primary School in Swansea, Ruth Davies, will open NAHT’s Annual Conference tomorrow (Friday 9 October 2020) with an appeal to remove the threat of inspections whilst schools are focussed on post-lockdown recovery work with pupils.

With more than 33,000 members, NAHT is the largest school leadership union, representing leaders in the majority of schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ms Davies will note that England is yet to follow the example of Wales and Northern Ireland, where inspection has already been suspended.

Speaking to delegates at NAHT’s virtual conference, which takes place on Friday 9 October, Ms Davies will say: “You cannot inspect a school into greatness. ESTYN, ETI and Ofsted would say otherwise, of course, but in Wales and Northern Ireland at least inspectors have backed off during the pandemic to allow school leaders the space they need to operate. We urge Ofsted to do the same in England.”

Ms Davies will acknowledge the need for accountability but will question the timing.

“Is it right for the Welsh, Northern Irish and Westminster governments to hold us to account. Of course it is. But accountability is crushing us. It is a brake rather than a rocket-booster. In England, Ofsted plans to begin re-inspecting schools in January as if the pandemic had gone away. This is so short-sighted it would be comical if it didn’t have such potentially awful consequences.”

NAHT, along with other voices in education have repeatedly sought a compromise from Ofsted, but these appeals have always fallen on deaf ears. Ms Davies will say: “During the next few months, Ofsted has the power to do so much good. Instead it is choosing to do harm. For a publicly funded body to ignore the views of school leaders and press on with inspection is unforgiveable.”

NAHT believes that the inspectorates in Wales, Northern Ireland and England should all commit to working alongside schools to create new systems that recognise the huge changes to society in recent months.

Ms Davies will conclude by saying: “In the interim, let’s use the time to rebuild what we want and need from our accountability systems so they are ready to go as soon as schools are able to get back to operating in something like normal circumstances.

“We know that scrutiny is necessary. Of course, tell us when we go wrong, because we want to get it right for these young people. But partners properly commit to helping one another to make things better. They do not hang labels like ‘failing’ or ‘inadequate’ around each other’s necks.”

NAHT will also debate a motion at its Annual Conference which says:

“NAHT will continue to pursue the key recommendations from the NAHT Accountability Commission, including reducing high-stakes accountability measures. In addition, we will continue to make a strong case for independent inspection review panels in all nations so that no inspectorate is policing its own complaints.”