The inspection of schools should to be carried out by experienced educationalists with a mandate to assist and support schools. Instead the process has become both superficial and dehumanised, consisting of short visits by inspectors who appear to be more concerned with ticking boxes than understanding what is going on in the school. Teachers regard an Ofsted inspection as threatening, bringing no assistance but plenty of misery. Moreover, the inspection process seems heavily weighted against schools which work in challenging circumstances.
Schools are under-
Teachers have to work excessive hours: in many schools 50 and 60 hours a week is normal. Much of this time is spent recording teaching practice and filling in forms associated with serial testing. This apparently pointless work is resented. Long hours and excessive paperwork mean that many experienced teachers are leaving the profession and newly qualified teachers rapidly resign.
The number of children of school age is rising and the need for new schools is becoming desperate. Yet the Government refuses to allow local authorities to manage the provision of new places properly or to build new schools. It requires all new schools to be so-
The Government has tried to turn the education system into a marketplace with Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) competing to sign up schools. When that happens, schools move outside the influence of Local Authorities and MATS set up their own systems of management with no democratic or community accountability. Control by a MAT means that the school governing body may be dismantled, the role of parent governor is often eliminated and decisions are made remotely by the Trust, whose members are appointed without any obligation to represent local people or interests. MATs are not accountable to the schools or to the parents.
In many cases MATs are too small to provide a proper level of support to individual schools, and the problem is even more serious when the MAT runs schools in different parts of the country. There have been spectacular examples of corruption and of MATs collapsing, with damage to the school children and leaving a legacy of financial problems. Mats are unaccountable and unreliable, and should not be allowed to run Britain’s education system.
The Government has depleted public assets and wasted a great deal of money. The Public Accounts Committee has noted that Government policy has transferred land and buildings from the public realm to MATs and Free Schools. Opening 422 Free Schools during the past seven years has cost about £3.6 billion with an estimated £900 million going to lawyers. The Government is now intending to deliver £50 million to Grammar Schools for their expansion when the money is badly needed by underfunded community schools.
The Government has established an ethos by which schools are required to compete with each other. The creation of academies, the establishment of MATs, the league table process and the school inspection system are all based on the belief that competition will improve standards. The evidence suggests otherwise. The considerable improvements achieved by the London Challenge and by similar initiatives in Manchester and Birmingham came about as a result of cooperation between schools. Schools should work together and not compete against each other.