Inspection survey results

A poll of 804 individuals working in schools in England, carried out for Education Support Partnership by the VoicED education market research panel during November-December 2014, gave a worrying judgment on inspections.

Whilst inspectors endeavour to promote improvement, the research suggested that inspections were actually damaging teacher wellbeing and performance, as well as students’ results.

The poll also revealed how inspections can be improved. Education Support Partnership has since taken these suggestions from the profession to Ofsted for consideration.

Impact on teacher wellbeing

In response to the survey, 79% of respondents said inspections had impacted negatively on their wellbeing. Only 7% felt inspections had the opposite positive effect. 93% said inspections had contributed to their stress, 88% said they had contributed to anxiety, and 34% said they had contributed to their depression.

Impact on performance and results

Regulators aim to promote improvement, but our survey found that only 10% thought inspections had impacted positively on their performance at work, and only 8% thought inspections had improved students’ results. A higher proportion, 10%, felt inspections had impacted negatively on students’ results, and 82% felt inspections had no effect on students’ results overall.

Worryingly, nearly three quarters (74%) said inspections had negatively impacted on their motivation to continue in their career in education. Only 2% felt more motivated to continue in their education career as a result of their experience of inspections.

One survey respondent, a 54-year-old Secondary School teacher from Lincolnshire, said she quit working full time to do supply work because of the stress of inspections and class observations:

“Constant monitoring made me get out of teaching on a permanent contract two years ago,” she said.

“There are huge demands on producing progress reports and most schools now expect you to log homework. The admin tasks are so time consuming; it’s all for show.

“The most recent Ofsted guidelines say you don’t have to submit lesson plans but schools are still terrified of Ofsted and still expect teachers to jump through these unnecessary hoops. This is on top of termly observations and everything else you have to do.

“We’re due an Ofsted inspection at any time. I’m a supply teacher so I don’t feel as much pressure now but other teachers feel vulnerable if they haven’t done all the marking or procedures in the right way. Everyone wants to be seen to be doing your best but teachers don’t have enough time to do everything. In some ways inspections do make you want to do things right, but it’s either at the expense of your family time or lesson time.”

Special measures 

A majority of school staff who participated in the survey said the following reforms would improve their wellbeing, and in turn their effectiveness: 

  • 72% favoured greater assessment of staff wellbeing 

  • 53% would benefit from more feedback on how to improve 

  • 51% called for inspections to be based on peer/mentor assessment 

These findings were fed into Ofsted’s 2014 consultation about its future inspection framework. We are also undertaking further activity to encourage relevant bodies to deliver these improvements to school inspections.

Julian Stanley, Chief Executive of Education Support Partnership, said: “These results show how inspections are resulting in high levels of stress and anxiety for many teachers with little benefit to their effectiveness in the classroom or student results.

“We believe there is a strong link between a teacher’s health and wellbeing and their students’ outcomes. Given the negative impact of inspections on a significant number of teachers, the current regime urgently needs to be reviewed and changed. Ofsted should consider these suggestions from teachers.”