Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Sunday, 4 May 2008 16:48 UK

Targets 'drive out head teachers'

Classroom monitoring
A Commons committee is looking at the impact of Ofsted

School leaders are being driven out of the profession by "pernicious systems of accountability", head teachers say.

Ministers had to learn to trust teachers, said National Association of Head Teachers leader Mick Brookes.

The current Ofsted regime encouraged schools to deny problems for fear of being publicly shamed, he told his annual conference in Liverpool.

Research published by the NAHT suggests 86% of school leaders think Ofsted pressures deter would-be head teachers.

We have to free ourselves from the clutches of curriculum accountants and assessment auditors
National Association of Head Teachers leader Mick Brookes

Mr Brookes told his conference in Liverpool most schools that found themselves in difficulties were in areas where there were hard-to-teach children and hard-to-reach parents.

He added: "We do need to dare to be creative; we do need to shake off the oppressive burdens of targets, tests and tables.

"We have to free ourselves from the clutches of curriculum accountants and assessment auditors. And yes… it is high time to trust schools."

'Hyper-hysterical accountability'

League tables and other accountability measures should be based on the wider context of the school, he said.

And there needed to be a move away from the culture of "hyper-hysterical accountability", he added.

The NAHT survey of 500 members, released at the conference, found 86% thought the impact of Ofsted inspections meant potential head teachers were put off applying.

More than two-thirds thought the impact on their school was at best neutral, and at worst very unhelpful.

The research found 86% of members thought inspections increased vulnerability and insecurity.

Ofsted said inspections were effective, but it had a responsibility to assess their impact on education.

It said it did not necessarily accept the verdict of small sample surveys, not compiled by recognised polling organisations.

Instead of, "what we can do to help the children?" we have, "what have you done towards Ofsted targets?"
Teacher surveyed by the NAHT

The Commons select committee on education is currently looking at the impact of the present inspection system.

The NAHT wants Ofsted inspectors to have a more positive role in schools.

"The NAHT would like this committee to recommend that the current regime that seeks to find fault and has such a negative effect on the school community is replaced by a system that promotes professional integrity," the research said.

The association also claims there is a variation in the quality of teams carrying out school inspections, and urges Ofsted to pay far greater attention to its own standards.

One of the teachers interviewed as part of the research said: "The Ofsted inspection was unhelpful in most respects. They were only interested in statistics and data."

Another said: "The build-up of pressure as schools come to the "expected" time for an inspection is considerable - particularly for head teachers.

"Ofsted is a constant topic of conversation - so instead of, "what we can do to help the children?" we have - "what have you done towards Ofsted targets?"

An MPs' committee report said the expansion of Ofsted to include councils, children's homes, adult learning and fostering agencies as well as educational establishments, may have made it unfit for purpose.

But in a statement, Ofsted said its chief inspector Christine Gilbert had floated proposals to tailor the amount of inspection in a school to its performance - with the best schools visited less regularly.

It added: ''Inspections are effective.

"The National Foundation for Educational Research conducted a study of the impact of Ofsted inspections in May 2007.

"Of the 72 schools that responded, 69 found the inspection helpful or very helpful for school improvement, and confirmed that the inspection made very clear what further action needed to be taken.''

Ofsted under fire in MPs' report
11 Jul 07 |  Education
Ofsted 'confirms the obvious'
04 May 07 |  Education
Half of appeals to Ofsted upheld
16 Mar 07 |  Education

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