This week saw one of the most respected Headteachers in England, Geoff Barton, write a damning article about his experience of a recent inspection. In his article he expressed what a number of us have felt about the inspectorate over the past few years. That OFSTED are too data lead; have too many absolutes in their framework; focus in on narrower and narrower issues; do not have consistency in their inspectors, leading to too many inconsistent judgements; leading to too many Headteachers leaving or being told to leave their jobs and that they have lost their school improvement role.
We have also seen that schools with higher ability intakes, i.e. schools where the students arrive with better Key Stage 2 test results gain disproportionate amounts of outstanding grades. Whereas schools that have lower ability intakes gain disproportionate amounts of inadequate and require improvement grades. Partnered with the effect on a person’s career of a disappointing OFSTED means there is a shortage of teachers wishing to work or lead schools in challenging circumstances.
All of this has led to an overwhelming opinion from the profession that OFSTED is no longer fit for purpose. Like all of my colleagues, I believe that there is an important need for accountability and for schools to be regularly visited. However, there is no doubt that the current confrontational approach by inspectors has had its day and we now need a change. Therefore my proposal:
- Outstanding and good schools
School Self Evaluation (SEF), peer review reports (where other Headteachers visit the school and observe its practice) and Improvement plan is requested by Inspector (HMI). HMI reads these documents and looks at the exam results and decides whether a further visit is needed. It will be needed, if a school feels that it has moved from good to outstanding.
Also, a certain number could have a follow up visit from an HMI to check consistency. This would be simply for HMI to meet the Headteacher and Chair of Governors. This will give OFSTED a clearer picture of best practice in certain areas or make small adjustments to the improvement plan, but grade is maintained.
If HMI disagrees with the SEF and/or the plan – differing levels of inspection:
Full visit – depending on the seriousness of the issues.
Or a shorter visit to inspect one area of the SEF and/or the Improvement plan
- Schools moved to, or are Requires Improvement or inadequate
- a) HMI that inspected and gave the grade becomes the school improvement partner and works with the school over the year. This gives consistency to the school and allows the inspector to judge improvements.
- b) Next inspection: HMI who has been working with the school provides a report on the distance travelled and makes a recommendation to the next team. Next team judge on a visit using SEF, Improvement plan and recommendation of supporting HMI. This gives the next grade consistency as you have the opinions of the original HMI. This also allows the school to work with one clear support partner. It also allows OFSTED to quality assure.
What we agree on, is that the current framework and inspectorate has lost the confidence of educators and it is now time to change.