LONDON—The British schools regulator Ofsted has said that they will move away from using exams as the main indicator of success because of concerns it reduces teachers to mere “data managers.”
Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman that the focus on performance had narrowed what schools are teaching.
Spielman said, “For a long time, our inspections have looked hardest at outcomes, placing too much weight on test and exam results when we consider the overall effectiveness of schools.
“The cumulative impact of performance tables and inspections, and the consequences that are hung on them, has increased the pressure on school leaders, teachers and indirectly on pupils to deliver perfect data above all else,” she said.
She added, “The bottom line is that we must make sure that we, as an inspectorate, complement rather than intensify performance data.”
The proposals will be introduced starting September 2019 following a consultation on the new inspection categories.
The most significant of the new categories is that the “pupil outcomes” (exam results) section will probably be replaced with a new one called “quality of education.”
Teachers Welcome Changes, Urge Caution
Teachers broadly welcomed the changes, having long argued that Ofsted’s focus on results, alongside school league tables, put undue pressure on students and reduced schools to “exams factories.”
Chris Keates, leader of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said teachers would be happy to be treated as experts rather than data managers.
He said in a statement, “Data collection, often for the purposes of inspection, is one of the biggest contributors to excessive teacher workload and if implemented effectively, the NASUWT would expect these reforms to help address the problem of excessive bureaucracy which is diverting teachers from focusing on teaching and learning.”
However, the National Association of Head Teachers warned that the proposals should not be “rushed through” without proper consultation.
Deputy leader Nick Brook told the BBC: “What concerns us is that Ofsted’s new framework is due to be implemented in less than 12 months’ time and it has not left itself enough time to introduce change of the magnitude that’s being suggested.
“There’s a real risk that not all schools will understand it and not all inspectors will apply it consistently,” he added.
Just a month ago, Spielman admitted Ofsted had put too much weight on tests and exams, leading to pressure for schools to “deliver test scores above all else.”
In a commentary published on Sept. 18, Spielman wrote, “Too many teachers and leaders have not been trained to think deeply about what they want their pupils to learn and how they are going to teach it.”
“We saw curriculum narrowing, especially in upper key stage 2, with lessons disproportionately focused on English and mathematics. Sometimes, this manifested as intensive, even obsessive, test preparation for key stage 2 sats [national curriculum tests] that in some cases started at Christmas in Year 6,” she said.
She added, “A well-constructed, well-taught curriculum will lead to good results because those results will be a reflection of what pupils have learned.”