Rayner unveils plans for new children's services inspectorate

Nina Jacobs
Monday, September 23, 2019

A new inspectorate for children's services in England could be created after Labour pledged to abolish Ofsted if it wins the next general election.

The party set out plans to scrap the non-ministerial department describing it as "unfit for purpose" in a series of policy announcements on education, health and social care at its annual conference in Brighton at the weekend.

In a speech to delegates, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said a new inspectorate for education would replace the "current high-stakes" school inspection system as part of Labour's National Education Service.

Labour has criticised the current system which it claims penalises local authorities in deprived areas.

Rayner said the new independent inspectorate covering schools, early years, further education and children's services, would be staffed by inspectors based in regional teams with expertise across different areas of provision.

Inspectors would, unlike much of the current inspection workforce, be full-time employees with expertise in whichever area they inspect, from early years to further education and from schools to children's services, she said.

Under the new proposed two-phase inspection system, all schools and education providers would be subject to regular "health checks" led by local government and a "more in-depth" inspection carried out by the new inspectorate.

Rayner said this would ensure that parents received reliable information they needed about schools.

Since inspections would be carried out in response to concerns arising from regular "health checks" or those raised by parents, teachers and governors, this meant that settings would not be scrutinised at random, she added.

She said Labour would also crack down on an estimated 500 illegal schools that fell outside of the current inspection system by introducing a new statutory definition of a school.

"The current system is unfit for purpose, so the next Labour government will abolish Ofsted and replace it with a system that will give parents the reliable and in-depth information that they need about our schools," said Rayner.

"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."

"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," she added.

The move to abolish Ofsted is likely to provoke huge controversy with former Osted chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, already describing the plan as "bonkers".

Education minister Nick Gibb said: "Labour are clearly intent on reversing the huge improvements that have been seen, particularly for the most disadvantaged children, by ending academies and free schools.

"Now they want to stop parents having even the most basic information so that they can make informed choices about their children's schools," he said.