The verdict on Ofsted: demands improvement?

Ofsted has been dogged by criticism lately: accusations of political bias, complaints by headteachers that its judgments look arbitrary, politicians privately commenting that the agency is poorly managed, or unions warning that the technique is creating needless tension. There have been allegations that some headteachers have identified out the date of inspections in advance. The watchdog has undertaken a new consultation on a draft “framework” – its inspection guidelines – such as shorter, a lot more regular inspections and a toughening up of safeguarding troubles, following some very damaging failures. It also recently published a “myth-busting” manual to clarify its position on lesson-grading and the amount of marking anticipated. Will all this silence Ofsted’s critics?

Kenny Frederick, retired headteacher of a secondary school in Tower Hamlets

Kenny Frederick
Kenny Frederick Photograph: Frank Baron/The Guardian

I think Ofsted has had its day. Items have enhanced in excess of time and schools have never been so excellent. I pay a visit to several across the country as a consultant and I’m blown away with the operate colleges are doing – but the rhetoric from her majesty’s chief inspector is always damaging. With what finish? Teachers have had ample and really number of want to be heads.

Teachers are below intolerable stress as heads, neighborhood authorities and academy sponsors panic about the up coming Ofsted and the up coming set of benefits. I really feel quite sorry for the numerous heads of colleges in deprived areas whose results have fallen drastically this yr since of all the alterations to exams. They fear this will trigger a no-notice inspection, and so it goes on. Teachers are no longer free to get hazards in the classroom or be inventive. Possibilities to take youngsters out and see issues are severely curtailed due to the need to move results up.

Heads and teachers are frightened to talk out in case Ofsted are watching and may well come in unexpectedly. My own workers often used to question my outspoken stance on the topic in case we all suffered as a consequence. But I consider much more heads want to stand up and be counted.

Jonathan Simons, head of training, Policy Exchange thinktank and founder of Greenwich totally free school, London

Jonathan Simons.
Jonathan Simons. Photograph: PR

Ofsted should be a hygiene inspector, not a food critic. By that I indicate it ought to be headteachers who are the dominant actors: they need to be the ones saying this is what we’re carrying out, these are the outcomes, here’s the information to show it. Ofsted must be validating and demanding that judgment rather than producing the judgment themselves.

The move to finish graded lesson observations is a excellent a single, but I’d take it more. Anytime you have Ofsted inspectors sitting at the back of a lesson they are inevitably going to be judging that lesson in buy to judge the quality of teaching general. Ofsted’s scrutiny ought to be of the head and governors and the decisions they are producing, rather than just creating their personal drop-in judgments.

Vicky Peel, mother or father of 3, Peckham

Vicky Peel
Vicky Peel Photograph: PR

When Ofsted came into my son’s school, I feel they had a very certain set of ideas about the area and discovered stuff accordingly. The school was positioned in unique measures, which was a really destructive procedure for everybody – such as the young children, who had been furious that their college had been trashed. It wasn’t reflective of their knowledge as students, or mine as a mother or father.

I would like Ofsted to come in and, if schools do require help, then I’d like them to supply some, but I really do not feel that takes place. Instead, it’s like a damning judgment most of the time. The tension it puts teachers by means of is palpable.

Richard Pring, retired director of the department of educational research at Oxford University

Richard Pring.
Richard Pring. Photograph: Anna Gordon

In the final handful of decades there has been a transformation of her majesty’s inspectors as a entirely independent physique to what is now Ofsted. This occurred twenty or so many years in the past, when the head of Ofsted grew to become a political appointment. There needs to be a return to that independent tradition, the place inspectors were appointed from inside HMI and received two many years of intensive coaching.

Francis Gilbert, English and media research instructor in outer London

Francis Gilbert.
Francis Gilbert. Photograph: PR

When I 1st began educating, Ofsted would come in and invest two weeks in a school looking really closely at what we have been doing and they would then publish up a measured judgment. These days, it seems like they’ve made the selection before they arrive based mostly on exam data which actually isn’t dependable because you can just drill college students on passing tests. It’s a garbage-in, garbage-out system. Ofsted needs to be looking at whether college students are currently being challenged to consider – and not drilled as robots to pass tests, which is taking place in some colleges. Ofsted may possibly talk the speak but the actuality is they in fact encourage this sort of behaviour simply because they are also enthralled with their political masters who are in adore with exam outcomes.

Russell Hobby, basic secretary of Nationwide Association of Headteachers

Russell Hobby.
Russell Hobby. Photograph: Martin Godwin

Michael Wilshaw’s sincerity is glaringly obvious for everyone, but the very authoritarian technique he employed when he was a head doesn’t work when applied across a total system. It produces an awful great deal of anxiousness and hostility, which eventually is going to undermine what he is trying to attain. For schools, Ofsted feels like a trial where you’re defending your self against an aggressive prosecution. You don’t learn from the knowledge.

We believe the initial layer of inspection must be a peer assessment process, in which colleges come in and inspect each and every other. Ofsted need to be moderating and high quality assuring that peer assessment procedure and intervening where there’s a threat of failure. Ofsted, which is an industrial-scale enterprise, would be far better if it did less and focused on regions of threat where it did substantial-good quality inspections.

Jackie Schneider, principal school music instructor in south London

Jackie Schneider.
Jackie Schneider. Photograph: Amit Lennon

Ofsted has fully mangled the English language: we had the word “satisfactory” which meant it was Okay. Now, if you say it in a college, it implies terrible. If you tell a instructor that they’re great, then they properly up since what they hear is: it is Okay, but it’s not excellent.

The overpowering feeling of most teachers is joy and relief at surviving and obtaining shot of Ofsted – folks really don’t walk around inspired afterwards. It is not a driver for improvement. Ofsted has been actually good at receiving colleges to be excellent at Ofsted, which is totally self-serving. There is an entire market of consultants promoting advice on how to get in the excellent class – I’d like to know how much schools are frittering away on this.

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of the British Association for Early Childhood Education

Beatrice Merrick
Beatrice Merrick Photograph: PR

The new framework’s proposal not to examine new early many years settings for up to 30 months is a huge concern. The thought of two and a half years of youngsters going via a setting that has had no inspection is truly worrying. We are currently anxious that there is a big backlog with early years inspections far more normally: some haven’t been inspected for 5 or 6 many years when they’re supposed to be inspected each four many years.

Of the inspections that have taken place, there have been a very large degree of complaints about the top quality of inspectors – in numerous cases this is thought to be brought on by outsourcing. It is disappointing that even though Ofsted is taking the rest of inspections back in-residence, it’s not doing so for early years. This is for reasons we can realize – linked to the length of contracts and so on – but there is a real concern that the top quality of inspections is not good enough.

Dave Penman, standard secretary of the FDA, the union representing senior personnel in Ofsted

Dave Penman
Dave Penman. Photograph: Steve Maisey/Photoshot

Ofsted is supposed to be independent of government but, clearly, numerous voices and forces inside government, will brief towards what they are undertaking or the folks concerned in it. That undermines the independence of the inspection regime – one thing which inspectors consider really significantly – and damages its credibility amongst dad and mom and teachers. School inspections have always been a political scorching potato, with a whole lot of quite sturdy ideological positions taken on all sides – but that creates a best storm around inspections. In the middle of it, all of the great work that inspectors do is lost.

Dr Michael Firth, headteacher of the Meridian college in Royston, Cambridgeshire, which won an appeal against Ofsted

Michael Firth.
Michael Firth. Photograph: stephen bond

Rather a lot every phrase the framework is republished in some type, which makes it hard for colleges – and inspection teams – to keep up. Definitely the last inspection we had, the inspection group didn’t stick to the framework and we weren’t offered an exact final result [the inspection staff mentioned the college required improvement but the college appealed and won]. The inspection was part of the previous program employing private contractors, which thankfully is modifying now that all inspections from following September will go in-home.

At the second, my school is awaiting inspection and the state of alert is a distraction. But the method advised in the new framework is proportionate – you would have 1 day with two in-residence inspectors, rather than a two-day inspection with a team of four folks. The unhappy issue is that this modify will only apply to colleges that are very good or exceptional.

Tim Brighouse, former chief commissioner for London schools

Tim Brighouse.
Tim Brighouse. Photograph: Sam Frost/Sam Frost

As opposed to some, I do not think Ofsted can be blamed for factors going incorrect in Birminghamschools – it isn’t the work of an inspector to spot extremism. The blame lies squarely with the secretary of state and the nearby authority. Ofsted was sucked into a activity for which it was ill outfitted.

The entire body would seem to have become baffled as to what its part is and it appears as well closely concerned in policy to be credible.

My see is that we need to have a regional school improvement program: I would have it democratically accountable to a board produced up of representatives of local authorities in the region and experts. If a region had result in to doubt a school or had issues, you could then use a nationwide Ofsted that otherwise would be maintaining an eye on national standards and trends, and advising the secretary of state on policy.

At the moment men and women are too micromanaged. However it is to Wilshaw’s credit that politicians locate him too independent, the recently leaked DfE memo demonstrates the appalling see of politicians that they have to management inspectors.

Tim Browse, headteacher of Hillcrest principal college in Bristol

Tim Browse
Tim Browse Photograph: PR

Broadly speaking, I really like the proposals for a new framework, but I really do not like the slightly tokenistic way that it contains the need to have to put together kids for daily life in modern Britain. It has so significantly potential to go incorrect. It is so vague: are we going to be given a listing of what British values are? I fret that it is going to be a situation of cutting and pasting a number of items on to your web site and that is that box ticked. The fundamental reasons of why they’re pushing this issue are actually actually significant, and need a a lot more careful consideration.

Debra Kidd, innovative capabilities teacher, Saddleworth secondary college in Oldham

Debra Kidd
Debra Kidd Photograph: PR

Twiddling with the frameworks will never perform except if you take away the fear element. Individuals worry so a lot about Ofsted that the total college technique has turn out to be geared in the direction of what they consider inspectors may want.

Anytime there seems to be a move in the right course, for example stopping grading lessons, the emphasis moves to one thing else. Since there was a suggestion by Ofsted that progress would be measured by looking at books – colleges abruptly switched their marking policies around. So now you are getting main college teachers who are anticipated to mark 90 books every night of the week, and secondary school teachers with 200-400 college students who are now anticipated to mark individuals books in a week. The work of a teacher has turn out to be unsustainable except if you are willing to put 70- or 80-hour weeks in.

Headteachers have become like Premier League football managers and so they fear a bad set of final results simply because it may lead to a bad report. Heads place downward stress on workers, and staff place strain on the youngsters. The college is just operating underneath a buckling program of stress as a consequence.

Geoff Barton, headteacher, King Edward VI College, Bury St Edmunds

Geoff Barton
Geoff Barton Photograph: PR

When inspecting educating, one particular of the items that Ofsted has unhelpfully done is warp people’s views of what excellent practice is. If you talk about progress, people see it as a twenty-minute slice of a lesson in which a instructor very artificially will get children to demonstrate that they know much more at the finish of the twenty minutes than they did at the beginning. Ofsted has turn out to be also formulaic.

The reviews come to feel as if they could have been phoned in from a desk somewhere else. The distinctiveness of a school isn’t noticed and items that count to parents – regardless of whether there is a college orchestra, a debating society, whether or not the uniform is smart – more and more aren’t described.

‘Disappointed Idealist’, a secondary college teacher and blogger

'Disappointed Idealist'
‘Disappointed Idealist’ Photograph: PR

Politicians have all of a sudden – in the run-up to an election – realised that the present teacher workload predicament is unsustainable. But attempts to recognize tasks to lower are doomed except if politicians recognise that a enormous amount of pointless function originates with headteachers who feel below extremely hard pressures to deliver “WOW” (What Ofsted Wants). Until final 12 months, the problem was that schools came to comprehend from inspections that lessons had to be delivered in a particular way. This drove teachers mad until finally Ofsted had to publicly problem guidance to its personal inspectors. No sooner had that concern gone than the rumour went round that inspectors have been demanding to see “dialogue with students” in marking. Out of the blue, colleges all more than the nation have been demanding that teachers engage in what’s turn into acknowledged as “double-marking”, the place the instructor marks the function, the pupil comments on the marking, the instructor then marks the student’s comment on the authentic marking and so on. It exhibits how worry of Ofsted is behind so significantly unnecessary work. The single biggest factor politicians could do would be to tell Ofsted to stop looking for distinct inputs and instead concentrate on outcomes – letting teachers decide on how greatest to teach although retaining accountability for results.

Sarah Chitson, a sixth kind pupil in Oxfordshire

Sarah Chitson
Sarah Chitson Photograph: PR

I do not feel that Ofsted can inform what’s occurring at the school if they are only there for a couple of days. I’ve observed teachers attempt to cram all of their diverse tactics into a single lesson – the mini whiteboards, video games and group routines/presentations – just simply because it is the only lesson of theirs that Ofsted are going to see. They are trying to make a single lesson representative of a number of years’ worth of teaching, and I believe that’s unfair on the teachers.

Andy Cole, principal of the University of North West London

Andy Cole
Andy Cole Photograph: PR

From a school level of see, the new framework is adopting some of the poor practices of outdated regimes and becoming really college-centric. Inside of the advised framework they are speaking about acquiring rid of personal subject reports. In a massive FE university, we do a varied variety of professional instruction – from development to training for the visually impaired in computing. At the second we get a report on one department, it may well be engineering, for example, speaking about this topic in genuine depth, which is very beneficial for us. If you’re carrying out away with that, then we’d just be left with a broad statement about the school, and no correct reflection of our provision.

Sue Cowley, instructor trainer and writer

Sue Cowley.
Sue Cowley. Photograph: christopher jones

I’m not sure the proposed reforms will work – the partnership among schools and Ofsted has grow to be so muddied by what’s gone on in latest many years. Ofsted have moved outdoors their remit and started out talking about techniques. And, simply because Wilshaw is so outspoken, we’ve received ourselves into a scenario in which he’ll say: “Ofsted want to see this,” and then everyone begins undertaking it. It is not correct that schools just do items to please Ofsted, but they are turning out to be like puppets. Truly, we must have a situation where the Division for Education says what performs greatest for youngsters and then Ofsted come in and regulate factors like safeguarding. They’re tinkering with the framework but I’m not sure that they’re going to be ready to turn it into something that will work – I think they might have to commence in excess of once again.

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