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Labour pledges to revamp Ofsted grading system

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson was speaking at the Times Education Summit in London.

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Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson speaking at the Times Education Summit in London

Labour’s shadow education secretary has said the party will revamp the current Ofsted grading system following the death of a headteacher earlier this year.

Bridget Phillipson said the party would end the system of “one or two-word” school ratings such as “outstanding” and “inadequate”, instead grading schools in a wider range of areas.

The comments came after headteacher Ruth Perry, of Caversham Primary School in Reading, Berkshire, took her own life in January when an Ofsted report downgraded her school from the highest rating to the lowest.

There has been heavy criticism of the schools watchdog and its system from education unions and Ms Perry’s family following her death.

Speaking at the Times Education Summit in London on Thursday, Ms Phillipson said: “Labour believes in inspection precisely because we are a party of high and rising standards in our schools, but if our current inspection system is letting them down then Labour’s view is simple – it needs to better.

“That is why Labour will change Ofsted for the better. An end to the one or two-word summary judgment, a richer scorecard showing where things are right, as well as where things need to be better, and an annual inspection of safeguarding issues.

“There are schools that went a decade without any inspection under the Conservatives, and I have two words for that: requires improvement.”

Headteacher Ruth Perry
Headteacher Ruth Perry died in January while waiting for an Ofsted report (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Times Education Commission, set up in June last year, aimed to examine Britain’s education system from early years through to lifelong learning, and consider its future in one of the broadest inquiries ever held in Britain.

Several other notable political figures spoke or formed part of panels at the annual summit, including minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education Robert Halfon and former Conservative Party leader Lord William Hague.

The commission made 12 key recommendations for education, one of which called for a reformed Ofsted and new “school report card” with a wider range of metrics.

Rachel Sylvester, chair of the commission, said a broader report card would be “far more rigorous” and that she was surprised at the level of “antipathy” she had encountered towards Ofsted.

She added: “There’s been a lot of rhetorical support … But I think now that we need action.”

Political biographer Sir Anthony Seldon said Ofsted was “ripe for reform”, and that the Government had not listened to “the cacophony of sound” on the issue.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a ‘maths to 18’ policy earlier this year (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Ms Phillipson later said maths and English were vital to the party’s education policies, before declaring that Labour was “the party of education”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a “maths to 18″ policy earlier this year, which aims to ensure all pupils in England study some form of the subject up to that age.

Focusing on apprenticeships in his speech, Mr Halfon acknowledged there was a lot of work to be done in the area, before admitting: “For far too long, the acquisition of vocational and technical skills has been undermined.”

He said the Government’s aim was to have a quality apprenticeship attached to every occupation, and that apprenticeship funding would increase to £2.7 billion by 2025.

The commission’s recommendations were now in the “implementation phase”, according to Ms Sylvester, as both the Conservatives and Labour drew up their manifestoes for the next general election.

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