Private school watchdog the School Inspection Service has closed down after Ofsted found concerns with its rigour and approach to safeguarding.

In a letter to the education secretary, chief inspector Amanda Spielman called for the government to close down underperforming Steiner schools that fail to improve.

She also highlighted failings in the School Inspection Service (SIS), which had been responsible for monitoring the largely privately run Steiner schools and some religious schools.

“The results of our monitoring work of SIS also gave me cause for concern: the inspections we monitored lacked rigour, particularly in relation to safeguarding,” Ms Spielman wrote to Damian Hinds.

“I am aware that SIS has taken the decision to cease operating. I know our officials are already working together, along with the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), to ensure that all schools previously under the SIS umbrella are inspected by an alternative inspectorate.”

Recent press coverage suggesting that the new GCSEs are more challenging than the IGCSE is unfair and misguided, argues independent school head, Russell Slatford.

Following a publication based on the analysis about the GCSE v IGCSE debate from the Right Honourable Lucy Powell MP’s office. This led to headlines from national newspapers, including ‘Private schools cheating GCSE system to boost results’.

IGCSEs have long since been adopted into the curriculum of the independent sector, initially because they lacked the coursework element of the original GCSEs, and were therefore seen as more rigorous. State schools are not able to choose these qualifications. Coursework and controlled assessments have long been viewed as cumbersome and time-consuming; few would argue that they take an inordinate amount of time – particularly for the teacher – for little gain in the final examination mark, perhaps as little as 20%. As such, many independent schools chose to move away from that style of teaching and assessment; this has been the case for well over 10 years. The terminal examinations of IGCSE are generally longer, and some of the questioning perhaps more complex; it was certainly considered a harder qualification in its early years. IGCSEs are recognised by all tertiary institutions, employers and universities, although, oddly, not by the DfE since 2014.

Let’s stop finger-pointing and consider what is best for the pupils in all our schools. If we value a broad and varied approach to education, then IGCSEs have a place in any school that considers them of value to their children. Surely the attention of those who feel that IGCSEs are giving some an unfair advantage should be aimed at the Government, not the independent sector. My advice would be to point your finger in that direction, to facilitate a change that will provide greater educational opportunity and variety for the pupils in your schools.

Read more at: