An Inspector Calls. Or not, as the case may soon be…….
This is going to be a short post about the situation relating to OFSTED and the issue of inspections and whether schools are going to be given notice of an inspection or not following the recent ‘Trojan Horse’ saga. It also will allow me to get off my chest my current disdain for the way schools have, once again, been treated by HMCI, the Secretary of State for Education and the media.
It has been very unedifying to watch the behaviour of OFSTED, HMCI and Mr Gove in the last few days, all trying to flex their muscles to prove that they can be the toughest on schools. @mikercameron tweeted on the jostling for ‘one upmanship’ between Mr Gove and Mr Wilshaw in a tweet recently: ‘ It’s like a watching a rather messy divorce being played out in public. Unedifying and damaging for the children.’ The media promised ‘dawn raids on schools’ earlier in the week, suggesting that there was something criminal or illegal happening in schools up and down the country. The right wing press went into apoplectic overdrive. And it wasn’t just them. Many other elements of the media took this as an opportunity to once again put the boot into schools and the teaching profession. The unspoken message-we need this combative approach because all our schools aren’t good enough and, in cases, dangerous places for children-is one that I resent.
And it is all so unnecessary.
No approach from Mr Gove or Mr Wilshaw about how (whether proven or not) the Trojan Horse situation is being played out in a tiny, tiny minority of our schools. No mention that OFSTED can already institute a ‘no notice inspection’ on any school where serious concerns have been raised about safeguarding or safety. No mention of any of that. That wouldn’t be newsworthy. No-two of the most influential and senior figures in education in Britain today have taken the Phil and Grant Mitchell approach of dealing with things to this situation (apologies for the analogy-it’s late and all I could think of)!
For the record:
I do not care if inspections are unannounced. We don’t get much notice anyway. My ‘phone call’ last year came just before 1pm with the Lead Inspector. By the time we had finished and I had checked my notes for all the things he wanted in place by the next day, it was close to 2pm. We finish just after 3pm. How anyone thinks that schools can some how change or hide what we do in the space of 60 minutes before the students leave is beyond me. By the time I had called my SLT together and arranged a staff briefing, the school day had finished.
For those of you who have never ‘taken the call’ there is a huge amount of information requested by the LI. Meetings have to be arranged, personnel for the meetings agreed, a huge amount of documentation is requested and a general discussion takes place. All of this so that, when the inspection team arrive the next morning, they can get straight into the prime focus-inspecting the school. You take that notice time away and all that will happen in a no notice inspection is the first 3 hours will be based around inspectors shuffling around for information. What you then would do if a HT is out or the senior staff at the school are interviewing, for example, is something we will wait with baited breath for.
As I have said, I do not care whether or not an inspector calls or not. To me that is not the issue. The real issue is that the whole inspection process is deeply flawed and unreliable. The system is failing and has little credibility. The framework is all wrong. There are too many incompetent inspectors. Don’t get me wrong, there are many excellent inspectors but there are too many inspectors who do not understand data or recognise high quality teaching and effective leadership. Many of them never understood it as teachers and that is why they are now ‘consultants’ working freelance for private companies carrying out inspections. If you get a good inspection team you are ‘lucky’. It is unacceptable that the fate of schools, teachers and students can fall to whether you are ‘lucky’ or not to get a team that knows what they are doing.
If Mr Gove and. Mr Wilshaw are going to take the ‘Mitchell Brothers’ approach to things then let them start with the inspection framework and the quality of inspectors. Let them sort that out rather than putting the boot into the overwhelming majority of schools who get it right for their kids day in day out.
If anything, these last few days have shown me that whatever credibility OFSTED may have had in the eyes of the teaching profession has just disintegrated completely. This was perfectly summed up by a tweet from @oldandrewuk who said: ‘Well one thing to come out of Trojan Horse is that any danger of OFSTED regaining any credibility has now passed’.
I also think that there should be an apology issued to the thousands of school leaders and teachers up and down the country for the insinuation that has been bouncing around in the last few days that in the face of an OFSTED inspection, we behave in an unprofessional and fraudulent manner. That is completely unacceptable.
The rhetoric of ‘dawn raids’ and ‘snap inspections’ doesn’t bother me. It saddens me that it has come to this. It saddens me that those in power should view us with such contempt that they feel that they should always try and catch us out.
I know what we are doing in my school is making a difference and no amount of macho posturing from OFSTED or the government is going to make me change the way we do things at my school. And if OFSTED don’t like that then I guess I’ll see them at 7.30am sometime soon.