Sir Michael Wilshaw, the ex-chief of school inspectors, has criticized Ofsted’s assessment that nearly 90% of English state schools are of “good” quality, calling it “utterly absurd”.
Based on recent data, 88% of schools were deemed as either “good” or “outstanding” by the school inspection agency as of December last year. However, during a discussion with MPs, Wilshaw stated that after visiting some of the schools that received a “good” rating from Ofsted, he did not concur with the assessment.
Former headteacher Wilshaw, who served as the head of Ofsted from 2012 to 2016, was testifying to members of Parliament on the House of Commons education select committee, which is conducting an investigation into Ofsted’s interactions with schools.
MPs are investigating how Ofsted labels schools with headline judgments, such as outstanding, good, requires improvement, or inadequate, at the end of an inspection.
School leaders argue that the categorizations are overly basic, and the Labour party has promised to substitute them with a system of report cards.
Wilshaw stated that he believes the era of using a single word as a judgment is coming to a close. He expressed his previous support for this approach, but has since changed his stance. According to him, this method does not accurately reflect the reality of what is happening in schools and may give parents a false sense of reassurance.
He continued, stating that according to Ofsted, almost 90% of schools are considered good. However, he strongly disagrees with this statement, deeming it completely false. Based on his own observations of schools that have been rated as good in recent years, he does not believe they meet the criteria for being labeled as such.
“After visiting a few of these schools and reading the [Ofsted] report, I have had the urge to go to Specsavers and get a new pair of glasses because the report was not satisfactory. This could potentially mislead parents into a false sense of security.”
According to Wilshaw, Ofsted has strayed too far from relying on data and he believes their evaluation decisions are becoming increasingly based on personal opinions.
“We are faced with the absurd situation of schools that have extremely low progress scores, or even negative progress scores, and poor outcomes, receiving a positive evaluation.”
As per Ofsted’s data, the percentage of schools rated as good or outstanding has remained steady at 88% since August 2022, when it had risen from 86% the previous year. However, the percentage of primary schools with good or outstanding ratings has seen a slight increase from 89% to 90% since August 2022, while the percentage for secondary schools has remained the same at 80%.
Ofsted has faced significant criticism following the passing of headteacher Ruth Perry. According to her family, Perry took her own life following a detrimental inspection by Ofsted. The circumstances surrounding her death will be investigated in an upcoming inquest scheduled for next month.
According to a representative from the Department for Education, single-word ratings effectively summarize external assessments of education quality, safety measures, and leadership, providing parents with assurance when selecting a school for their child.