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Ofsted improvement plans 'frightening'

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Plans by the schools watchdog Ofsted to help struggling schools to improve are “frightening” and represent a conflict of interest, councillors have claimed.

Members voiced strong opposition to the plans at a meeting of the LGA’s children and young people’s board on Wednesday.

“We must point out [Ofsted] can’t possibly be an independent inspector if they are part of the solution for the improvement,” said Liz Green (Lib Dem), deputy leader of Kingston RBC.

“They have a prejudicial interest if they’re offering improvement services, so I think we need to be very clear that it is just not acceptable.”

David Simmonds (Con), chair of the board and deputy leader of Hillingdon LBC, said in response that he “totally agreed” with Cllr Green, adding: “That’s a point that we have made very clearly”.

The criticisms came in response to an announcement by Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw last month that the watchdog would start providing improvement services alongside its role as a regulator. He told MPs he had had a “Damascene moment” in which he became convinced this was necessary.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “As an inspectorate, we do not intend to remain on the side lines. Instead, we are actively taking steps to promote improvement - a key duty for Ofsted as set out in the 2006 Education and Inspections Act. We will be critical friends to those we inspect and we will not walk away from underperformance because all our children and young people deserve a good education. 

“We recognise concerns raised by the LGA and this is why any inspector who first judges a school to require improvement will not be the inspector who links with, and monitors it.”

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