Labour has vowed to scrap Ofsted, branding the schools watchdog “unfit for purpose”.
At the Labour Party Conference on Sunday, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner accused Ofsted of reducing schools to a “one-word grade”, calling it a system “that hounds teachers from the classroom”.
Under Labour’s plans, Ofsted would be replaced with a two-phase inspection system, with schools subject to regular “health checks” by local government.
Meanwhile, more in-depth inspections led by Her Majesty’s Inspectors would be carried out in response to these local checks, as well as concerns raised by parents and teachers.
“This means that in-depth inspections will arise from a genuine need, instead of taking place at random,” the party claimed. It comes after Labour blamed Ofsted inspections for driving teacher stress and adding to the retention crisis.
“In too many cases, Ofsted’s judgements and grades reflect the affluence of a school’s intake and the social class of its pupils – not the performance of the school,” Rayner added said in a statement.
“School performance is far too important and complex to be boiled down to an over-simplified single grade, reducing all schools to one of four categories.”
Responding to Labour’s plans, Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said the watchdog had shifted the emphasis in education “from a narrow focus on exam results onto the real substance of what children are taught in schools”.
It has also worked to tackle illegal schools and off-rolling, she said.
“This work must continue,” Spielman added. “So we’ll keep on raising standards in education through our new model of inspection and we’ll continue to keep the most vulnerable in society safe, through our regulation of children’s social care services across England.”
Meanwhile, Rayner also used her speech at conference to reveal Labour plans to integrate private schools into the wider education system.
The party’s first government budget “will immediately close the tax loopholes used by elite private schools and use that money to improve the lives of all children”, the frontbencher said.
Her comments came just hours before Labour delegates were due to vote on a motion calling for the party to strip private schools of their privileges.
The so-called ‘Abolish Eton’ motion would distribute private schools’ investments and properties across the wider education system, while also taking away their tax privileges.
It also calls for universities to limit the proportion of private school students they admit to their relative proportion in the wider population – around 7%.