SCHOOL leadership staff in Dorset have called for an overhaul of Ofsted after an inquiry said the watchdog is "not fit for purpose".

The inquiry, chaired by former South Dorset MP Jim Knight, now Lord Knight, and sponsored by the National Education Union (NEU), recommends the school inspection system should be overhauled.

Lord Knight said: "The evidence is clear. Ofsted has lost the trust of the teaching profession, and increasingly of parents.

"Our recommendations are designed to restore trust and address the intensification of leader and teacher workload while reforming a system which is ineffective in its role of school improvement"

The inquiry recommends that schools could "self-evaluate their progress" and work with an external School Improvement Partner who would work long-term with the school.

David Scadden is the Director of Sunny Days Nursery in Weymouth and Dorchester.

In June, the nursery in Dorchester saw its rating fall from Good to Inadequate after suffering a large number of staff changes over a short time

Mr Scadden said: "Ofsted should have a clearly defined supportive role focused on driving up the quality of early years education.

"The current model is experienced to be rather too punitive, and practitioners fear the inspectors, rather than respect them and their role.

"A well-respected professional inspector who supports practitioners and nurseries to improve young children’s development, to measure and monitor progress, is what’s needed.

"The system does not create a level playing field, and the grading system does not take into account the wide-ranging differences of providers, and their very varied funding and financial circumstances.

"The phrase 'champagne nurseries on lemonade funding' applies even more now than when first thought and spoken.

"The system creates an expectation of ‘high quality’ in circumstances of nurseries receiving ‘low-level funding’.

"Ofsted expects ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, whereas the government’s funding ‘requires improvement’, and next year it will become ‘inadequate’.

"The situation is simply not joined up, and children’s most critical period of early development is continuously at risk because of the inadequacies of the government’s disjointed policies.

"Ofsted should be remodelled on the previous supportive ‘Under Fives’ services provided by local authorities in the late 1990s."

"Huge" pressure on headteachers

Chris Perry, Headteacher at Cheselbourne Village School said: "We have had an Ofsted inspection in 2023.

Dorset Echo: Chris Perry, Headteacher at Cheselbourne Village SchoolChris Perry, Headteacher at Cheselbourne Village School (Image: Tom Lawrence)

"The experience we had was fair, well-being was highly regarded and thought of.

"However there are inconsistencies and not everyone has that experience.

"The inconsistencies need to be improved and that is why I believe changes need to be made.

"The pressure on school leaders is very high, the accountability is high on a leadership group, at a small school like ours, the senior leadership team is small, it is just myself.

"The phone call the day before causes a huge amount of pressure, you turn around your family timetable, and it is very much all action after that.

"I think that school improvement needs to be done with schools rather than against schools, as it can seem at times."