07/05/2013 04:59 BST | Updated 09/05/2014 06:59 BST

Axe Ofsted Inspections To End 'Toxic' Target-Driven Culture, Urges Demos Think Tank

Ofsted inspections should be axed in a bid to stop a "toxic" target-driven culture in schools, a study suggests on Tuesday.

Instead, parents, teachers and pupils, as well as inspectors, should be responsible for drawing up annual school reports, according to a paper by the Demos think tank.

Schools in England are currently held to account through inspections and league tables.

But the study argues that the current system is "profoundly toxic" and is failing to improve standards.

It raises fresh concerns that the current culture forces headteachers and teachers to put results and targets ahead of pupils' education, and leaves students feeling responsible for judgments made about their school based on their test and exam results.

It says: "This report strongly argues that the current model of accountability is profoundly toxic and is failing to achieve its stated goal of improving education."

The paper suggests that Ofsted should no longer be responsible for inspecting schools and instead offer guidance and collect information on the "innovative and inspiring work" that is going on in schools.

"The responsibility for producing reports about schools, making judgments about their qualities and defects, and providing an account of these to wider stakeholders would be transferred from Ofsted to the parents, teachers, other staff and students of a particular school, working with an external partner chosen by them from a list of accredited organisations," the study says.

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These reports would be produced once a year, include information on everyone's experience of the school and set out plans for improvement. They would replace the current Ofsted inspection system, which gives schools one of four ratings - outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate.

The Demos paper also suggests that current tests and exams should be replaced with a wider range of qualifications to give pupils more choice and to stop schools from focusing on targets.

The paper's author, James Park, said: "For too long, teachers and school leaders have been labouring in a toxic system, striving to meet targets at the expense of a good quality education for their students. International evidence shows that an education system which trusts professionals is more likely to succeed, yet policy over the past 20 years has systematically undermined trust.

"A system where all interested parties - leaders, teachers, students, parents and inspectors - have a say would be a step in the right direction. It would represent a crucial move away from a target-obsessed culture to a more balanced, trusting and effective education system."

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An Ofsted spokesman said: "Ofsted acts in accordance with legislation that determines our roles and responsibilities. Any changes to this are a matter for the Government and for Parliament.

"However, across remits, more than nine out of 10 providers consistently tell us they are happy with their inspection, and believe it will help them improve.

"Inspectors carefully consider the views of parents and pupils as part of their inspection evidence, and are now spending more time than ever before observing lessons and teaching. Our reports are a valuable, and independent, source of information for parents on the quality of their children's education."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Ofsted is an independent and impartial regulator of schools which carries out an invaluable role ensuring our schools uphold the highest standards.

"Exams and tests help children to develop greater creativity by requiring students to show they have absorbed and retained knowledge and can deploy it effectively. By gaining rigorously tested, high quality qualifications, children can prove their skills and knowledge to future employers and further education institutions."