Teachers have hit out at Tory plans to give Ofsted greater powers and introduce school inspections without notice.
The prime minister has vowed to inject £10m additional funding into the schools watchdog and introduce a raft of new measures, including increasing the length of inspections from two to three days to focus on behaviour, bullying and the extra-curricular offering.
The overhaul will also reintroduce routine inspections in schools rated outstanding, which were scrapped by Michael Gove in 2011, and put an end to “light touch” checks in good and outstanding schools.
If they win the election, the Conservatives will also pilot no-notice inspections, which will see the current rule of notifying headteachers at lunchtime the day before inspectors are due scrapped.
Geoff Barton, leader of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), branded no-notice inspections “completely impractical” – and warned the Tories were “flogging a dead horse” since the idea had been raised so many times before.
He added that the ASCL agreed with lifting the inspection exemption for outstanding primary and secondary schools, but claimed it amounted to “the Conservatives carrying out a U-turn”.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), warned longer inspections would “heap more stress pressure and exhaustion” on teachers already often working overtime.
She said: “Doing more of the same is not a good idea when it comes to Ofsted. No-notice inspections will not improve the quality of Ofsted inspectors, nor the accuracy of their judgements.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), said Mr Johnson’s announcement was an acknowledgement that the current inspection system does not provide “a fair and reliable judgement on school performance”.
However, he too argued “the answer is not to do more of the same”, adding: “Ofsted needs to focus its efforts on the small fraction of schools that are struggling to provide a good standard of education and offer a stronger diagnostic insight on what is going wrong, to help them improve more rapidly.”
He said: “No-notice inspections will do more harm than good – they will result in more wasted time for inspectors, whilst arrangements are frantically put in place to meet their needs; they will be more disruptive and stressful to teachers and pupils; and will give zero additional insight in return.”
Labour has pledged to abolish Ofsted and replace it with a new two-phase inspection system, blaming the current inspectorate for “high levels of teacher workload and stress” which is driving staff out of the profession.
The Liberal Democrats and Green Party have also vowed to scrap the inspectorate in its current form.
Reacting to the Tories’ pledge to boost spending on Ofsted inspections, Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, tweeted: “Ofsted judgments were a reflection of the affluence of a school’s intake and the social class of its pupils not the performance of the school.
“It’s created a culture of fear among teachers, driven thousands from the profession, and fails to give parents meaningful information about their children’s school.”
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “Ofsted is an independent and trusted source of information for parents and teachers and their inspections help to raise standards in our schools.
“But Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour want to scrap Ofsted, meaning parents won’t have reliable information about the performance of their child’s school.
“Without independent inspections, school standards would fall and our children would be less safe.”