OFSTED-just not fit for purpose

OFSTED-just not fit for purpose.

Before I get into the main part of this blog, I would like to state that as a Headteacher of a large (1750 students) 11-18 secondary school in Essex, I firmly support the concept of holding schools to account. I fully subscribe to the idea that there needs to be independent scrutiny of every school in the country. I do, however, believe, that the current OFSTED framework for inspecting schools is not fit for purpose and, more controversially, that the majority of inspectors carrying out inspections are not up to the task in hand.

OFSTED has almost admitted that the quality of inspectors carrying out inspections is inadequate. That is why they are stopping the ‘outsourcing’ of training to providers such as Tribal or Serco. My concern is that, unless I am reading this wrong and there is a vast new quantity of available inspectors out there, the inspectors employed by OFSTED will be those whose wildly inaccurate judgements so undermined the current system in the first place. Put simply, until there is confidence in the quality and consistency of those carrying out the inspections, then we go back to the start.

People who have not taught in a school in the last 15 years are not suitable inspectors. People who left teaching because they couldn’t actually teach and are now independent ‘consultants’ offering advice to schools in difficulty are not suitable inspectors. People who have not held any position of leadership in a school are not suitable inspectors. People who could not actually meet any of the teaching standards are not suitable inspectors.

OFSTED need to guarantee the quality of inspectors-until this happens any judgements are completely wasted. You can have the most comprehensive framework in the history of accountability but unless you have 100% confidence in those interpreting the framework then it is wasted.

I should say that I welcome the input of senior OFSTED officials. I have listened to Sean Harford @HarfordSean speak on a couple of occasions and was really impressed by the way he approached issues. Similarly colleagues have spoken about the way in which Mike Cladingbowl @mcladingbowl engages everyone in the debate to improve schools. The move to engage with professionals is welcomed, however, until OFSTED deals with the issue of the quality of inspectors carrying out inspections, good people like Sean and Mike are wasting their breath.

As A HT, I genuinely have no interest in OFSTED in its current form.

I say this as a HT of 6 years and leader of 2 secondary schools.

To really improve the outcomes for the kids in my school then I need to do what I think is right. I made it clear publicly that I absolutely have no interest in OFSTED to my staff and parents and this was quite liberating. I came to the conclusion a few years ago that the body that is charged with ensuring the quality of standards in our schools is completely unfit for purpose. I find it absurd that the majority of people passing judgement on inspections are unfit for purpose. I find it absurd that OFSTED continue to believe that, in their current format, they are fit for purpose. As long as these inadequacies continue then I will continue to run my school by what I think is right-not by what OFSTED dictates what is right.


9 thoughts on “OFSTED-just not fit for purpose”

  1. As a current HT your blog post is doubly impressive. Whilst I am sure you are right about the importance of the characteristics of the inspectors, I am increasingly convinced that this is only half of the story. The other half is the high stakes nature of the current inspection regime (which, I think, has become even more high stakes since outstanding has come to mean that the school is very, very special, and all should bow down before it). High stakes inspection will always lead to fear and distortion, regardless of the quality of the inspectors, and will result in a focus on the inspection regime, rather than on the students – in my opinion. A new approach is needed, which seeks to help schools become better, rather than terrify them into submission.

  2. Ofsted have been using extremely poor data, and – more often than not – incorrect analyses of data, by people who have shown themselves to be incapable of being trusted with that data.

    Yes, it’s nice that Mr Harford and Mr Cladingbowl are now “engaging” with people, but they have also been part of the problem. A system that has been destroying careers and damaging both schools and children on such hollow foundations that it should be a national scandal. It doesn’t need tinkering with. It’s been so wrong it needs a fresh start with fresh people, and most importantly, with people who have a clue what the numbers they’re prattling on about actually mean.

    Still, more meetings means more biscuits all round. Happy days.

  3. Banks, you are brilliant. I would work for you anytime. You and a few others have restored my belief that there are ‘good SLT’ out there. Oh, and the issue with inspectors is spot on as recent experience has shown me. Hope you never have to compromise due to RI or whatever. Keep the faith.

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