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Survey shows most college staff want to abolish Ofsted inspections

3 May 2024

The majority of further education college staff want an end to Ofsted inspections, a new UCU report shows.

The report, 'A culture of fear and anxiety: UCU members' perceptions of Ofsted inspection in further education', exposes a crisis of confidence in the Ofsted process. The findings show college staff experience high levels of stress and anxiety due to Ofsted inspections, creating a major health and safety risk.

UCU conducted the report following the tragic death of Ruth Perry, which a coroner ruled an Ofsted inspection contributed to. Ofsted is now consulting on changes to post-inspection arrangements, but last week the government rejected calls from MPs to scrap single word grades and reduce the frequency of inspections.

The report is based on a survey of over 1,000 UCU members. Key findings include:

  • nine in 10 (91.8%) believe 'preparation for Ofsted inspections adversely impacts my workload'
  • more than four in five (83.3%) believe 'Ofsted inspections cause me anxiety'
  • just one in five (20.4%) believe 'the Ofsted inspection process raises standards in the further education sector'
  • nearly eight in 10 (76.9%) believe the Ofsted term 'inadequate' is an unacceptable label
  • more than half (56.8%) believe 'Ofsted inspections should be abolished
  • nine in 10 (91.4%) 'would like to see an alternative model of improvement/challenge in the further education sector'
  • nearly four in five (77.8%) 'would like to see a peer model of improvement/challenge in the sector'.

The report recommends Ofsted inspections should be replaced with a collaborative peer-to-peer model that is valued and trusted by staff, students, parents and the wider population; that Ofsted should have a clear responsibility for supporting safer and healthier workplace practices, rather than generating healthy and safety risks; and that the term 'inadequate' should no longer be used.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'College staff are clear that Ofsted inspections need to be abolished. Our members say inspections are traumatic, and especially after the tragic death of Ruth Perry, we need an end to the stress and anxiety they induce.

'This report also affirms that the case for scrapping the 'inadequate' ruling is incontrovertible.  It is simply unacceptable for the government to rule out replacing it before Ofsted's consultation has even finished.

'We now need an end to the tyranny of Ofsted inspections and for the health and safety of staff to be properly incorporated into a new peer-to-peer led model that is valued by those who actually work in the sector.'

Last updated: 7 May 2024