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Ofsted inspectors to stop using exam results as mark of success

The Guardian logo The Guardian 11/10/2018 Matthew Weaver
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School inspectors are to ditch using exam results as a criteria for success because of Ofsted’s concern that the current focus on test scores has reduced teachers to the status of “data managers”.

In a round of broadcast interviews Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, repeated that the current “focus on data is coming at the expense of what is taught in schools”.

In a speech in Newcastle, Spielman will mark a major shift away from a results-based system championed by the former education secretary Michael Gove. She will say: “For a long time, our inspections have looked hardest at outcomes, placing too much weight on test and exam results when we consider the overall effectiveness of schools.”

She will add: “The cumulative impact of performance tables and inspections, and the consequences that are hung on them, has increased the pressure on school leaders, teachers and indirectly on pupils to deliver perfect data above all else.

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“Focusing too narrowly on test and exam results can often leave little time or energy for hard thinking about the curriculum, and in fact can sometimes end up making a casualty of it.”

Before the speech she told BBC Radio 4 Today’s programme: “We want to bring the inspection conversation back to the substance of what children learn and treat teachers as experts in their fields, not just as data managers.”

On BBC Breakfast she was asked whether the current education secretary, Damian Hinds, backed the change in emphasis. She said: “He agrees entirely with our analysis of the problem, and we are working closely with the department to make sure that these new proposed arrangements are both consistent with policy and preserve our independence to assess education standards.”

When it was pointed out that Gove had called for teachers to be sacked if exam results were inadequate, Spielman said: “What matters here is results that are achieved in the right way. What doesn’t work is where you end up with people chasing results for results’ sake, that’s the way that education can get stripped out. The rebalancing that we are proposing is getting back to looking at that substance to make sure that what is reflected in results really is the kind of education that we all want children to have.”

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Spielman said she wanted inspection reports to provide a different perspective from school league tables based on exam results.

She told Today: “We want to make sure that we concentrate on everything that isn’t readily captured [in tables]. Parents want to know the whole experience that a child will get at a school.”

And she suggested that schools had become too focused on exam success. “The measures in primary schools for maths and English were never intended to make schools operate as if other things didn’t matter,” Spielman said.

She added: “Unless inspection explicitly counterbalances, by default it is understandable that people will put more and more emphasis on those things that are measured and reported publicly. I want to help make sure that schools are viewed fairly, reported on fairly and have the opportunity to build on all areas of strength rather than focusing narrowly.”

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Teachers welcomed the proposed overhaul.


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