Should OfSTED Exist?

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Should Ofsted exist? 

There is no place in any system for an inspection service as ideologically driven as the current Ofsted. It lapses back to the era of Chris Woodhead, a man too opinionated to be in charge of any such service.

If there is an argument for external inspection of schools, rather than a system entirely based on self-evaluation, perhaps moderated by collaboration with peers or partners, it is a straightforward one. It is to bring a degree of objectivity and consistency and to protect the interest of learners. In a system as fragmented as education in England is becoming, we might well need that! That is not what we have…

Too Close For Comfort

We have a body far too close, politically, to the government and too judgemental about the elements likely to lead to school improvement. It takes the soundness of government policy as a given, and then focuses on teacher performance. Any meaningful evaluation system must be prepared to consider the efficacy of policy. It can affect performance.

Ofsted is a body that attempts to drive improvement more through threat, intimidation and exposure than through an approach based on supported self-evaluation and partnership. It has generated a sense of antipathy to teachers exacerbated by some shockingly misguided public statements, notably the recent salvo on “lazy teachers”. At times, the organisation appears to find its mouth to be an irresistible docking station for all of its feet.

It is hard to find convincing evidence that this approach will benefit learners. If we accept that transformation comes from the inside out and not from the outside in, we need teachers to change. That change should be achieved as far as possible through professional development and support unless there is clear evidence of damage to learners. We should not be dealing with some variation of the tactics of Passchendaele where casualties are almost glibly accepted and effort placed in trying to ensure a steady supply of replacements.

Peer To Peer

We need to look at what has worked and make sure that we have made a real difference rather than created disruption and transient change. There is so much evidence to support a more constructive and engaging approach than that favoured by Ofsted. Inevitably, we can look to Finland for an inspection free model. We can also look to Scotland for a model more rooted in partnership and self-evaluation and we can look to the successes achieved by the London Challenge and the successes of leaders like Tim Brighouse and others.

In present circumstances, do we need some agency, or collaborative approaches, to conduct evaluation and improvement? Do we need to learn from the data driven approaches that have served Google so well? I think the answer to these questions is “possibly”, but the answer to the question “do we need the current Ofsted?’ is a resounding “no!”

By presenter, trainer and education consultant @RealDCameron and posted by @TeacherToolkit.

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