Department for Education and Ofsted clash over exam results

The Dfe has defended the use of exam results to judge school performance.

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The Department for Education has restated the need for exams in delivering the national curriculum, after plans from Ofsted to review its inspection criteria were leaked.

An Ofsted source was quoted in the Sunday Times over the weekend, discussing proposals to decrease the proportion of value attached to exam results in the measurement of a school’s quality.

It was said that the reported shift from Ofsted comes after its chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, commissioned research into how schools implement the curriculum.

The findings of that research, published in October last year, suggested that intense preparation for tests was taking up time that could be spent learning about a wider variety of subjects or core subjects in more depth.

Spielman had commented that where schools compacted key stage three into two years, it meant that “a considerable number of pupils will experience only two years of study before dropping, for example, history or geography or a language, possibly never to study those subjects again.”

And the source quoted in Sunday Times article said: “The culture of cramming children has to stop. Children getting a rich education is better than false assurances that standards are always rising in exam league tables.

“Schools where teachers just think about how you get exam results and not what is best for the children to learn will be marked down. The chief inspector wants to shift a culture that is betraying a generation.”

In response to the leak, a DfE spokesperson said: “We do not comment on speculation. Exams and assessments have always been one of several measures to judge a school’s performance and this will continue. All children should have a broad, balanced and rounded education. We have always made this clear and the Ofsted inspection framework already ‎requires schools to demonstrate this.

“Our exams are on par with the world's best education systems and will ensure young people have the knowledge and skills businesses tell us they need from their future employees.”

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.