ASCL comment on Ofsted’s ‘big listen’

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Martyn Oliver’s launch of the ‘big listen’ and the focus on championing high standards for all children, especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.
“We welcome the ‘big listen’ as an important step in resetting the broken relationship between Ofsted and the schools and colleges it inspects. It is vital that the inspectorate wins back the confidence of leaders and teachers who at present regard it as unnecessarily harsh, punitive and inconsistent. Sir Martyn Oliver has already signalled a change of tone, and this has been well received – but the proof of the pudding is in this translating to a better and fairer system.
“The focus on putting the interests of disadvantaged children at the heart of the future reforms is also very welcome. This is a huge priority for school and college leaders and their staff already. It is important that Ofsted shows sufficient self-awareness that the inspectorate has itself been part of the problem – because its negative judgements stigmatise schools and make it harder to recruit and retain the staff they need to secure improvement for all their pupils, and particularly those facing the greatest challenges.
“We have repeatedly called for the current system of graded judgements – where everything a school does is reduced to a single phrase – to be scrapped and replaced with a narrative description which is more informative for parents and more supportive to schools that need additional support. This is not, however, something that Ofsted can implement but needs to come from the government. We hope they are also listening.”