Ofsted And The Year From Hell

What does Ofsted’s annual report say about the last tumultuous year?

Amanada Spielman has the hardest job in education outside of the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson.

It doesn’t matter what she says, there will be queues of critics waiting to tear everything apart. Ofsted has always been the organisation to attract the most hatred and also the most myths and legends.

In her launch speech, she spoke about how COVID-19 has given us “new insights into how we work together – and into how our institutions interact with us, and with each other.”

It certainly has. What is has shown us is that schools have been desperate to teach and get on with their core business whereas the archaic and leftist National Education Union has done everything to try and disrupt children’s education by stoking division and playing politics. Ms Spielman talsk about how “we all want to do what’s in children’s best interests” and yet this isn’t the stance the NEU takes at all.

Ms Spielman might be stating the obvious when she says that closing schools in the first lockdown has had an enormous impact on most pupils but it is how school’s responded and what provisions they put in place that mattered. Some schools were woefully unprepared for home schooling and had nothing to offer.

She also points out that where home support has been solid then some children have actually thrived during lockdown.

Some children have thrived in lockdown – the ones whose parents could be at home, work flexibly, weren’t too distracted by younger siblings, and could help with remote learning.

But, this is where the critics can back off and scurry back to their holes of hatred because Ms Spielman talks next about one of the key roles of Ofsted that hardly ever gets reported on – safeguarding and protecting the most vulnerable. Children have slipped through the net and there have been some serious gaps in identifying those at most risk.

Image: Ofsted annual report 2019/20

She draws attention to the “dramatic impact of school closures in falling referrals to children’s social care. Teachers are often the eyes that spot signs of abuse and the ears that hear stories of neglect. Closing schools didn’t just leave the children who – unbeknown to others – suffer at home without respite: it also took them out of sight of those who could help.”

Ms Spielman jumps to defend schools in this speech and recognises the wide remit schools have adopted over the years. She asks whether we are getting the balance right and further asks:

Do we want schools to have such extensive roles beyond education: as the community hub; as the triage point for support services and intervention; as the go-to solution for social problems; as the guardian of children’s waistlines? And if we do, are we giving schools the tools and capacity to do those jobs well, and leaving them enough time and headspace for the core job of education?

So here we have the head of Ofsted bending over backwards to support schools and all that schools have to do and yet this was hardly picked up on in the education media.

Ofsted occupy the same position as the Police – they have lots of haters and bashers but they are one of the first organisations we call in a safeguarding emergency.


Ofsted Annual Report 2019/20: education, children’s services and skills


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