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Ofsted responds to questions about appointment of RE National Lead

No new Ofsted lead subject inspector for religious education until after an Ofsted review of National Lead roles.

Written answers from Ofsted to parliamentary questions indicate that there is no intention to appoint a new lead inspector for RE in the immediate future.

In December 2014, Stephen Lloyd MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education asked the Secretary of State for Education a series of questions regarding the lack of an appointment of a new National Lead HMI for religious education within Ofsted.  These questions have been answered in written form by Matthew Coffey, the Chief Operating Officer of Ofsted.  The questions and their answers are reproduced below.

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, when the new Ofsted lead subject inspector for religious education will be appointed?

A: Ofsted is currently reviewing the National Lead roles with a view to complementing the planned changes to inspection, due to take effect from September 2015.  The inspectorate will look to appoint to the vacant National Lead roles once the review is complete.

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, who has held the responsibilities of the lead support inspector for religious education since the departure of the previous occupant of that post?

A: Ofsted recently advertised for the National Lead role for religious education in August 2014 though no appointment was made.  In this interim period, the inspectorate’s policy team for schools has responsibility for all work in this subject area.

On 20 February Joyce Miller, Chair of the RE Council, wrote a letter to Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector at Ofsted, to encourage a more rapid appointment of a new lead subject inspector for religious education.

Dr Miller  stated:

Dear Sir Michael,

I have read with interest the written answers of 5 January 2015 from Matthew Coffey HMI to Stephen Lloyd MP regarding the vacant role of lead subject inspector for religious education.

I understand that Ofsted’s intention is not to make an appointment until after a review of National Lead roles has been completed, and that such a review would be undertaken to complement the planned changes to inspections due to take effect from September 2015.  While I appreciate the desire for a full review before an appointment, I am concerned that this timetable would leave religious education without a lead inspector for a considerable length of time: Alan Brine, the previous holder of the position left in August 2014.  I believe that appointing a new lead inspector for RE should be a matter of urgency due to the complexity and centrality of religion and belief in current debates about schools and their governance.

Ofsted’s report Religious education: realising the potential highlighted the lack of subject specialists in schools and the impact of this lack of knowledge on the quality of teaching and learning.  It would be unfortunate if this undesirable state of affairs were to be mirrored in Ofsted itself.  The quick appointment of a new lead subject inspector for RE would be a positive and reassuring step.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Joyce Miller

Ofsted’s response to Dr Miller’s letter confirms that an RE National Lead will not be appointed until a review of the roles has taken place. The full letter, from Matthew Coffey HMI, can be read here.

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