Labour 2019 pledge to scrap Ofsted will go, new education team suggests

Sienna Rodgers

Members of the new Labour education team have suggested that the party’s 2019 general election policy pledge to scrap current school inspection system Ofsted will be abandoned.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green revealed in a Schools Week interview last month that the party would be reviewing its policies to abolish both Ofsted and tests in primary schools.

The thinking behind the move has now been set out by new shadow schools minister Wes Streeting, who replaced Margaret Greenwood in the role in October after she broke the Labour whip.

Addressing the Schools and Academies Show this morning, Streeting said: “I think what Labour got wrong, if I can be frank, before the last election was that the public heard the scrap Ofsted bit.

“They didn’t hear the ‘we want to replace it with something better’ bit. And as a result, I can tell you that one cut through pretty quickly to parents and grandparents who were saying ‘why are you going soft on standards?'”

According to Schools Week, he added: “That’s not where I’m prepared to be and where I think the Labour Party should be. But the fundamental point here is: don’t tell us what you want to scrap, tell us what you want to build.”

The opposition frontbencher went on to say that his impression from speaking to teachers in his constituency and others in the sector was that Ofsted had “improved in a number of respects in recent years”.

Streeting stated that “if you didn’t have Ofsted, you would need to reinvent it” and therefore he was “not sure” that “hoping we can scrap Ofsted” would solve the problems critics have with external inspections.

Ofsted, which is responsible for inspecting a range of educational institutions, including state schools and some independent schools, has been accused of exacerbating the teacher supply crisis.

Writing in response to Labour’s education policies last year, the National Education Union’s Mary Bousted highlighted the view that Ofsted had lowered educational standards and increased leaving rates.

“DfE officials admit, privately, that Ofsted grades are tied much more closely to a school’s pupil intake and that deprived schools are unfairly downgraded for the poverty of their pupils,” the joint general secretary wrote.

As Labour’s education lead under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Angela Rayner in September 2019 described the current Ofsted system as “unfit for purpose” and said Labour would replace it with a new one.

She said: “The current Ofsted regime labels and ranks schools but it doesn’t help them improve. Labour will improve standards in our schools and we will do it through collaboration, not competition.”

Since taking up the shadow schools minister role, Streeting has also given an interview to The Guardian in which he hinted that the ‘National Education Service’ policy would be scrapped under the new leadership.

It was suggested in the write-up that Rayner’s free-at-the-point-of-use, cradle-to-grave proposal was considered by Streeting to be a “slogan” that failed to resonate with voters, and that it would “hit the dust”.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, who was originally appointed as Shadow Education Secretary by Keir Starmer before later being sacked, said in April that Labour partly lost the election due to having no “overarching message” on education.

“There are a number of reasons as to why we lost, we know that, but one of the reasons is that we didn’t have that overarching message that explained to people what the National Education Service was for,” she told Schools Week.

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