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Trust leaders more likely to work part-time for Ofsted

Leaders working in academy trusts are more likely to be Ofsted inspectors than their maintained school peers, analysis suggests, after the watchdog was forced into revealing figures for the first time.

It comes as Sir Martyn Oliver, the incoming chief inspector, has pledged to look at getting more sector leaders involved in inspections. This includes allowing Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) to work part-time in other roles.

Ofsted has about 300 full-time school HMIs and about 900 additional Ofsted inspectors (OIs) who work part-time alongside their main jobs, mostly in education.

Sir Martyn Oliver

Ofsted lists OIs on its website, but does not publish information on where they work.

Last October, a series of “aide memoires” – or crib sheets – given to inspectors with inside information on what to look for in inspections were leaked online.

It led to accusations that schools with access to the sheets could have an unfair advantage, but Ofsted snubbed calls to publish the information and refused a freedom of information request from Schools Week to release the home institutions of its OIs.

The watchdog was concerned it would lead to individuals being “targeted to dissuade” them from the inspectorate or allow “a small number of motivated” people “to place unwarranted pressure” on them or their employers.

However, the Information Commissioner’s Office ordered Ofsted to release the information after we appealed, stating there was “legitimate interest” and it was already simple to find an inspector’s employer by using the Internet to search for their name.

Academy leaders outnumber maintained

The resulting list of 762 inspectors, which was accurate as of October last year when we first asked for the information, included either the name of a school, trust, council or sometimes just the name of a region.

We were able to identify the exact school, trust or council for nearly four in five of the inspectors on the list.

Our analysis showed 65 per cent work for academies, despite just 42 per cent of schools nationally being academised.

Thirty-one per cent of inspectors working for trusts were employed by one with 15 or more schools, compared with 34 per cent of academies nationally in a trust of that size.

This analysis was corroborated by Ofsted, which provided us with updated analysis in August of its current 900 additional inspectors.

The inspectorate said there was roughly an equal split between primary and secondary among the academy inspectors. However, the 30 per cent of council-maintained inspectors were predominantly from primary schools.

Ofsted was unable to reliably say what the home institution was for 5 per cent of the workforce.

Additionally, our analysis suggests 8 per cent of OIs work in special schools, which make up 4 per cent of the schools nationally.

Ofsted said it did not operate quotas and applications were judged on their “merits”. All inspectors were “given the same training”.

Julie Price-Grimshaw, a former HMI and frequent critic of the watchdog, said schools with inspectors felt they had an advantage “because they know what Ofsted’s looking for”.

‘Vital’ inspectors can serve disadvantaged schools

Steve Rollett, the deputy chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, said it was “good” Ofsted’s workforce included trust leaders.

“We know how many academies serve disadvantaged communities … it is vital that Ofsted’s inspection workforce includes leaders who have this experience and perspective.”

Eleven of the regional directors or headteachers at United Learning, the country’s largest trust with 83 schools, also worked as inspectors.

A spokesperson said that “practising as an inspector provides an opportunity for colleagues to see practice in other schools and look critically at what works well and what doesn’t.

“The high-quality professional conversations that should happen between inspectors and school leaders during an inspection should be mutually beneficial.”

Ark Schools, which runs 39 academies, said having three serving OIs “has been very helpful in our school improvement endeavours”.

A number of other large trusts did not respond to a request for comment, including Delta, Oasis and Ormiston who all had five inspectors, according to our list.

The Kemnal Academies Trust and Greenwood Academies Trust employed three inspectors, while REAch2 and Academies Enterprise Trust employed two.

Speaking to MPs, Oliver made a “direct plea to all of the professional bodies, to the trade unions, to the headteachers and leaders … how can we involve you in a far greater aspect as the Ofsted inspectors and His Majesty’s Inspectors in the future?”

He said some trusts were advertising for former HMIs and “that means often we’re losing all of this talent. Is there a way in which – many institutions are having to look at flexible working – does Ofsted need to embrace that?”

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