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UK School Inspections Under Scrutiny

by | Tue, Mar 28 2023

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A Christian education expert has called for changes to the way “brutal” school inspections are conducted in the UK.

Steve Beegoo who’s the head of education at Christian Concern and a former principal and inspector himself said the inspections by schools’ watchdog Ofsted placed huge pressures on head teachers.

Schools are given one of four ratings — ‘outstanding’, ‘good, ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate.’

An ‘inadequate’ rating is often a career-ending assessment for head teachers.

A former inspector told the BBC: “The most common word I hear in relation to inspections is ‘brutal’. We cannot have head teachers going around saying inspections are brutal.”

Mr. Beegoo told Premier Christian News that head teachers often bear the responsibility of solving various societal issues as well as managing safety, behaviour and academic performance.

He said the stress can be overwhelming and disclosed that he had personally experienced a ‘breakdown’ during his time as a head teacher.

“Thanks be to God that there were Godly people around me who were able to support and pray with me and lead me to a place of hope,” he acknowledged.

Mr. Beegoo pointed out that policy changes regarding faith, identity, and sexuality have had a significant impact on faith-based schools trying to teach in line with traditional Christian beliefs.

He believes Ofsted inspectors sometimes approach these issues with their own ideological bias, adding to the challenge for religious schools.

He called for prayer and support for teachers and head teachers to find the balance between what they should carry alongside Jesus and what burdens they should let go.

“One word indictments” of a school’s performance can be “very punitive”, the Association of Christian Teachers (ACT) said.

Executive Officer Lizzie Harewood, criticised what she called “the immense amount of stress and pressure put on teachers and leaders” by the current methods of assessing a school’s performance.

“We’ve got to also consider the fact that we have had a major world event. About three years ago was the first lockdown. The legacy of the pandemic and those repeated lockdowns continues to affect children”, she explained.

“I certainly think that ACT would welcome some kind of consideration of reform to the inspection system”, Ms. Harewood told Premier Christian News.

Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson says summing up schools with a one-word grade is crude and a “report card” approach may be fairer.

The issue has come under intense scrutiny in the UK after the recent death of a head teacher whose school was downgraded from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate.’

Mr. Beegoo emphasised the importance of supporting educators and praying for their well-being, saying: “There are huge, huge pressures on head teachers, so I have huge sympathy for all that’s happened in these circumstances”.

Ofsted has ignored calls to pause its inspections. The UK Education Department insists they are crucial to maintaining school standards.