2 min read
28 Nov

Here is the reply we received from the Secretary of State when we wrote to him to express our concerns about the inappropriateness of graded inspections during a pandemic. The response came via an email from a civil servant more than a month after we had sent it.

23 November 2021

By email

Dear Headrest

I am writing on behalf of the Secretary of State to thank you for your letter of 21 October and 18 November about the resumption of Ofsted school inspections, and teacher wellbeing.

I am sure you will appreciate the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented levels of correspondence for all government departments, and I apologise it has not been possible for us to reply to you more quickly.

With regard to Ofsted, the re-starting of the full inspection programme is an important step forward. Her Majesty's Chief Inspector is committed to ensuring that all its inspections are both robust and fair to schools. Ofsted has published updated inspection handbooks for September which take account of the impact of the pandemic.

Nobody underestimates the scale of the challenge schools, colleges and other education providers have experienced through the pandemic. However, it has also provided an opportunity to build back better and fairer, doubling down on our mission to make sure every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential.

Accelerating the rate of Ofsted inspections over the coming years will provide parents with an up-to-date picture and swifter recognition of the hard work of leaders and teachers.

We want to ensure all teachers and school leaders can focus on meaningful activity that improves pupil outcomes and teaching quality. This means promoting and embedding sustainable, effective practice and addressing unnecessary bureaucracy and workload. This will support successful delivery of our school reforms, further drive our recruitment and retention agenda and support COVID-19 recovery.

The department continues to work proactively with the sector to understand the drivers behind workload and wellbeing issues and improve our policies and interventions. We continue to support schools to take action and remove unhelpful practice that creates unnecessary workload for schools. The department’s school workload reduction toolkit, developed alongside school leaders, is a helpful resource for schools to review and reduce workload. It is currently being updated with schools to reflect developments in their practice during the pandemic.

Supporting the wellbeing and mental health of school staff is a crucial element of our commitment to help create a supportive culture in schools and colleges.

To help support the mental health of school leaders, the department funded a pilot led by the charity Education Support. This provided peer support and one-to-one supervision from experts to school leaders. We are building on this with a longer-term programme of mental health and wellbeing support. In June 2021, the department published an invitation to tender for a contractor to launch this new programme in the autumn, to be delivered to around 2,000 school leaders.

The government recognises the pressure that staff in schools and colleges have been under and is enormously grateful to them for their efforts, resilience, and service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and now in support of recovery in the new school year.

Thank you once again for taking the time to write to the Secretary of State to express your concerns. Your correspondence has been allocated reference number XXXX-XXXX. If you need to respond to us, please visit https://www.education.gov.uk/contactus and quote your reference number.

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Yours sincerely

A Townsend
Ministerial and Public Communications Division

You can read our letter here.

* The email will not be published on the website.