Ofsted’s new inspection framework for councils has been branded “inappropriate and inadequate” by the Local Government Association (LGA).
Critics fear Ofsted could take a one-size-fits-all approach to inspections
The framework, which outlines how Ofsted will inspect local authority arrangements for supporting school improvement, will not apply to academies and free schools, and as such will fail to create a level playing field where all parties involved in local education services are inspected, says the LGA.
“It’s been many years since councils controlled schools, which any new inspection framework must recognise to be effective,” an LGA spokesperson said.
“Councils have to battle with red tape in order to intervene in poorly-performing maintained schools. They also have no legal powers or funding to intervene in poorly-performing academies so can't be expected to be held responsible for their performance in the same way.”
Ofsted will use the framework to assess which local authorities are not doing enough to improve struggling schools in their area. Inspectors will consider the extent to which the local authority knows its schools and the effectiveness of its identification of, and intervention in, underperformance.
When a consultation was launched in February, the framework was widely criticised by local government groups and teachers unions.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said the inspection framework was likely to weaken collaboration between schools and local authorities that could hinder the sharing of best practice.
Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: “Local authorities need to have the freedom to adapt support to suit the needs of individual schools.
“We are worried that if Ofsted uses strict, high-pressure, one-size-fits-all inspections this will force local authorities to concentrate on what Ofsted inspects rather than on helping schools tackle their specific weaknesses.”
But Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said the framework had been revised to take into account the different approaches to school improvement used in different areas.
He added: “Schools, including maintained schools, academies and free schools have developed their own approaches to improvement and some make only minimal use of the local authority services on offer, while others use them wholeheartedly. Local authorities are key in brokering support, challenging underperforming schools and building local relationships.”