Centre-right think tank Policy Exchange has called for reforms to school inspections in order to raise standards in English schools.
It recommends abolishing "unreliable" lesson observations that last less than 20 minutes in its new report, Watching the Watchmen. The study's authors say the practice takes up a considerable amount of time and money which could be better spent elsewhere.
Headteachers should be given more responsibility to make judgements about their school and the role of inspectors should be to scrutinise and validate, they claim.
The report cites research which finds there is a significant probability that lesson observations do not adequately gauge the actual progress of pupils in a class.
Although Ofsted has told inspectors not to grade lesson observations, the think tank says this measure does not go far enough.
In addition, the report focuses on the quality of school inspectors. It says Ofsted should consider either abolishing or radically reducing the number of inspectors contracted to private outsourcing companies.
It claims many inspectors lack the skills necessary to analyse data, or the experience or specialist knowledge in primary or special needs teaching "to make a fair judgement of a fast evolving and increasingly autonomous education system".
As a result, schools make decisions on what Ofsted will understand, rather than what is in the best interests of the institution. It describes this as a "lowest common denominator" approach.
Inspectors should take tests to ensure they have the skills necessary to analyse data, and they should have relevant teaching experience in the schools they are assessing.
According to the report, inspections should be carried out in a two-stage process. The first would happen every two years, awarding schools with a grade from outstanding to inadequate, along with a new 'school capability' grade to gauge institutions' continued ability to perform.
A 'tailored inspection' would be carried out on schools that fail to get a good or outstanding grade in both criteria.
The report's authors claim a two-stage process would ensure double the amount of time could be spent on a tailored inspection, with inspectors able to understand a school and its data.
Posted by Alan Douglas