Ofsted and the driving force of competition in our schools

Zoe Williams states that the issue with Ofsted “is the truth that the whole culture – targets and terror, name and shame, compete and count – discourages what education thrives on: believe in, cooperation, participation” (The whole schools inspection culture is the issue, 20 October). As the union representing Ofsted inspectors, we would agree that schooling thrives on believe in, cooperation, participation, but dispute that the culture of inspection is one particular of targets and terror, name and shame, compete and count. Inspection plays a critical function in driving up specifications in training. Inspectors are civil servants – politically impartial and appointed below authority of the crown – who operate tough to guarantee that inspections are performed robustly and independently inside of the legal responsibilities laid down by parliament. That is why they believe passionately that Ofsted should examine each and every institution with no worry or favour, and must continue to guard towards politicisation

Driving up standards in education is rightly at the forefront of most political agenda but it can frequently be deeply divisive: like most public-sector organisations, Ofsted is neither perfect nor dysfunctional. It’s time to recognise the crucial operate undertaken every single day by these focused, passionate public servants who function countless unpaid hrs to supply substantial-top quality inspections in the curiosity of the nation’s young children. Possibly fingers also want to be pointed at politicians and commentators whose agendas are not progressed by a balanced and proof-based debate.
Dave Penman
General secretary of the FDA, the union representing senior personnel in Ofsted, which includes Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI)

Zoe Williams is right to identify that competitors is the driving force behind Ofsted, but needs to location its creation in a historical context. In the 80s, the Tories had ambitions not just to privatise the provision of colleges, the initial stage of which was the introduction of the Nearby Management of Schools, but also to give each parent a financial voucher to be spent in whichever school they chose. While the voucher system proved unworkable, the notion of a market was launched though the notion of “parental choice”, which in flip necessary criteria upon which this kind of decision could be made. These had been launched in the form of the frequent curriculum for all colleges (except personal ones), consistent nationwide testing and league tables, with Ofsted created to rate every single college on a standardised scale.

As has been pointed out repeatedly by respected academics ever because, the complete program is ruthlessly primarily based on the demands of cost-free-industry economics at the expense of the educational wellbeing of our youngsters. And it is to the eternal shame of Labour and the Liberal Democrats that they have complied in not just the perpetuation of such an iniquitous and damaging method but continue to advocate its expansion.
Colin Burke
Manchester

Zoe Williams’ important and perceptive report highlights that “competition can only be fostered in a world of consistent measurement”. True, but what is regrettably not extensively recognised is that Ofsted’s method to measurement is fundamentally flawed. As a physicist and, right up until just lately, a parent governor for my children’s major college, I have been appalled at the degree of statistical innumeracy at the core of Ofsted’s approaches.

A essential illustration is Ofsted’s Information Dashboard, which governors are expected to use to inform their determination-generating. Remarkably, the dashboard supplies no data at all on the statistical dependability of the data – colleges are in contrast and ranked with no indication of the extent to which the variations can be explained by normal statistical fluctuations. Usually, the 12 months-to-year fluctuations within a single college are larger than the variation among so-named “similar” schools (and the approaches behind identifying “similar” schools are far from robust and properly-established).

We teach our first yr physics undergraduates that to make a measurement with no such as an estimate of the error bars is, to quote Wolfgang Pauli slightly out of context, “not even wrong”. 1 can only envision what the famously irascible Pauli would have created of Ofsted’s abuse of information.
Philip Moriarty

School of physics and astronomy, University of Nottingham

Zoe Williams flawlessly illustrates the basic flaw in so a lot of social policy – if you can not measure it, it does not count. Or expressing the McNamara fallacy: you commence by measuring what is useful and end up only valuing what is measurable.
Rick Hall
Nottingham

Following 22 years of doubtful practice and constant moving of goalposts, it is time to abolish Ofsted and re-empower neighborhood authorities with local advisers and inspectors who realize the neighbourhood troubles of challenging colleges. Put the £70m launched by ending Ofsted into a huge growth of Sure Commence centres, linking them to their neighborhood primary colleges in purchase to encourage language improvement. More than a few many years this will aid guarantee that several a lot more toddlers get the house help, parental curiosity and talking and listening abilities that prepare them for producing excellent progress in college.

Investment in the cultural as well as the bodily advancement of the earliest years of lifestyle, by means of Confident Start off centres, is a key to effective training for a lot of youngsters, and especially for people increasing up in impoverished communities.
Professor Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire

As an ex-chief examiner and chair of an A-degree board with 35 many years of encounter, I did not find this report surprising (Fears more than bad marking as appeals for A-level and GCSE exams hit new higher, 22 October) but Russell Hobby’s concern above inequities as to the ability of colleges to challenge grades is disturbing. Boards do have rigorous techniques to try to meet the essential standards, and examiners are usually fairly certified and try out their best but are bedevilled by restrictions of time and price. For instance, a process whereby principal examiners and chiefs would laboriously go by means of all scripts on the borderline to make sure the grade was proper has long considering that been abandoned as also time consuming and pricey.

As the joint council mentioned, most of the mark modifications were “relatively small”, the vast bulk of these appeals would have been covered by borderlining and schools would not have had to shell out. At grade-setting meetings there is an elaborate method of checking scripts but not adequate to time to really do it despite the appearances of so undertaking. Scripts that have been wrongly marked are flagged up and passed to a principal for remarking but these are only a tiny proportion of tiny samples so it is recognized that there must be other people.

Marking is not an actual science in most topics so re-marks are essential, but if the numbers are escalating it would appear the cause is a lot more to do with time and expense than the markers and the procedures in themselves. A return to borderlining would mitigate against the observed inequities.
Susan Saunders Vosper
London

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