#Vamoose! I’m off… to a meeting with @OfstedNews


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In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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Over the course of the past 18 months, the grass-roots Twitter-channel of @SLTchat has slowly made its voice heard in the echelons of those that sit above us in the educational-hierarchy. As a result, recently I posted how the social-media epoch is out-dating Ofsted and The Department for Education.

As a result, I have been invited to a meeting this week at Ofsted, Aviation House in London.

Will our views be heard? Photo Credit: e³°°° via Compfight cc
Will our views be heard?
Photo Credit: e³°°° via Compfight cc

Context:

As a continued effort to bring people together via @SLTchat; as well as discussing Ofsted openly online here, and in my tweets; the #SecretOfsted series have provided real, end-user-experiences for teachers.

Prior to the meeting at Ofsted headquarters, I have decided to post a further secret-read. If you did miss the first two reads, you can catch up below:

  1. A leadership experience of Ofsted
  2. Why lesson feedback can be divisive?

Ofsted have told me that a select-few have been contacted to attend this meeting. I am aware of 4 or 5 other bloggers who will be there, and I will post an update after the event. We are due to meet Ofsted’s national director for schools, Mike Cladingbowl, who recently said:

“Is it possible to reduce the high stakes nature of a “one-size fits all” inspection regime – and the unintended consequences that sometimes flow from it – while retaining the rigour and commitment to high standards that has been the Ofsted hallmark? This isn’t just a conversation we’re having with ourselves. We are talking to school leaders, classroom teachers, parents, governors and many others who have a stake in us getting this right …”

… and there you have it. #Vamoose! I’m off… to a meeting with @OfstedNews!

Invitation:

Ofsted
The original email …

#SecretOfsted – The future of inspection:

(Written by a #SecretTeacher) – the following text, is not written by @TeacherToolkit.

In light of some of the views I have, about inspection and inspectors, let me supply some background. I have been a teacher for 9 years now. Prior to that, I was an environmental health officer (health inspector) for nearly 20 years. My job involved carrying out inspections of food companies, from small restaurants to multi-national chains and companies. It required inspection; advice; compliance with law; enforcement; quality assurance and lead assessor work linked to ISO 9000 (as was).

It is this experience coupled with being a “service-user” of school inspections that informs my view.

Credibility:

Inspectors can only assess the quality of lessons if they are themselves current teachers; not ex-headteachers or failed heads, or classroom teachers that couldn’t take the heat in the classroom; or combinations of the above with people who vaguely announce, that they’ve “been involved in education for over 20 years”.

 Photo Credit: phauly via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: phauly via Compfight cc

Hospital porters may have been associated with hospitals for 20 years, but you wouldn’t want them doing your hernia operation! When inspectors arrive, they need to give chapter and verse about their current classroom experience as a teacher.

There needs to be, demonstrable credibility.

Capability:

If these people grade a lesson as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’; they themselves have to teach that lesson objective the same or next day; to a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ standard to model how it is done. When giving feedback, they have to preface their findings with an outline of their currency in the classroom, and what qualifies them to arrive at that decision.

Photo Credit: Criterion via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Criterion via Compfight cc

Because the stakes for observation and inspection are so high, (capability; performance related pay etc.) the school and teacher is entitled to the highest assurance, that the person making the decision is absolutely sure, and clear as to how and why the judgement is reached. And can verify it.

They need to have demonstrable capability, to underpin the credibility.

Walk the walk:

We do not want the nonsense of; “We’re not allowed to tell you how to improve, that would be like Ofsted inspecting itself”. Linked with issue of credibility above this, only confirms most people’s prejudice, that the inspector doesn’t actually know what to say or do, to cause an improvement (even assuming s/he was able to accurately assess in the first place).

Photo Credit: Mark van Laere via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mark van Laere via Compfight cc

It is akin to a childish-guarding of some secret truth that, if shared, undermines its value. When I was an inspector I was more than willing, in fact keen to demonstrate verbally, in writing and practically, why something needed to be done and the reasons underpinning it. After all, the reason for the inspection was to try to guarantee a wider outcome (safe food in my case) not to guard the flame of secret knowledge.

Inspectors must be prepared to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Impartiality:

We do not want or deserve, or need Serco or Tribal. Just properly qualified professionals, current in the classroom and keen to share expertise and advice developmentally. I have heard anecdotally, that properly qualified and experienced HMI’s were an excellent resource before the inspection process became politicised and outsourced.

 Photo Credit: Capt Kodak via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Capt Kodak via Compfight cc

Again, the high-stakes involved, mean that schools should not be inspected by a contractor. If that means employing more HMI’s so be it. There are too many vested interests and too much at stake. There are potential conflicts of interest at play and quality assurance is compromised.

The DfE must be prepared to only use properly qualified and experienced HMI’s who are not involved in the publication of schemes of work, curriculum advice or other elements; that could prejudice impartiality.

Risk assessment:

Should the above point be disregarded, anyone who is involved in “Mocksteds” or consultancies, or in any way linked with companies involved in the provision or support of delivering education, must declare that interest for scrutiny and must not inspect or report until the potential conflicts have been risk assessed.

 Photo Credit: mag3737 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mag3737 via Compfight cc

When I was an inspector, there was a private company (that shall probably have to remain nameless) that ran a very successful and lucrative business carrying out inspections/audits of food companies for a respectable fee. These inspections were notorious for producing huge lists of non-compliance (a lot of which was not legally required) and then not offering any advice. Sound familiar? In addition, they were doing this (poorly, in my opinion) for a fee that the Government was doing, through tax and business rates already.

Potential conflicts of interest must be investigated and risk assessed before any inspections take place. It needs to be a legal requirement to report this and any changes to these.

Common-purpose:

There needs to be a scrutiny system that checks on Ofsted; with teeth and a desire to ensure that there is not power without accountability. In its present format, Ofsted is a blunt instrument that fails to secure its own stated aims.

Regarding school improvement, Ofsted needs to think about how it deals with people, and ask itself some difficult questions about its relationship with schools. It needs to stop behaving in such a high-handed way. In my past experience, if I approached private companies with the expectation of a reserved parking space and the demand to be fed, watered and accommodated; at the expense of the provision for the people at the place who actually do the job, I would be laughed out of the building!

Photo Credit: Be-Younger.com via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Be-Younger.com via Compfight cc

It begs the question; are Ofsted there because we are here; or are we here because they are there? The approach generally is one that engenders fear and resentment. The system militates against openness and a spirit of mutual aims.From speaking to colleagues and following the broadsheet blogs, it would appear that the system is almost on the cusp of causing non-cooperation; schools reeling under an onslaught of negativity.

Imagine if teachers treated children in the way that Ofsted treats schools …?

The inspection process needs to be delivered in a humble way if it is to engage schools and foster a sense of a common purpose. We deserve the same respect from Ofsted as we show to our pupils.

End.

And here is what happened at the meeting…

Comments are free:

If you would like to leave a comment for this school teacher to share, please do so by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post. I will also respond to you, on behalf of the secret-teacher, after sharing your comments.

Photo Credit: seq via Compfight cc

 Secret @TeacherToolkit?

If you have an Ofsted experience you would like to share; please contact me below in good faith.


5 thoughts on “#Vamoose! I’m off… to a meeting with @OfstedNews

  1. What a great article, I would feel much better about ofsted if I thought they were there to help improve my practice rather than just give me a label and leave! I love the idea of them having to teach the objective.

  2. From a Secret-teacher:

    I’m going to stick my head above the parapet, and state that I think Ofsted are a good idea. We need an objective look at our schools, and some constructive feedback on how they can improve.
    The problem with this is that Ofsted is something that is done TO us. Teachers fear it, senior leaders break out in a cold sweat at the mere mention of the word, and none of us currently believe that they are coming in to help us.

    Inspectors are seen by teachers as ‘out of touch with the chalkface’, and the phrase ‘Those who can’t teach, inspect’ is bandied around the staffroom.

    Once the dreaded phone call is announced, SLT and teachers alike break out the industrial sized coffee machines, and phone to inform their loved ones that they will see them in a few days. The school IT network is the busiest it’s ever been, and the car park is still full at 7pm.
    Once the Inspectors arrive, teachers begin to twitch every time their classroom door opens. An undercurrent of frustration runs through the school, growing with every frown or shake of the head by an inspector. Who are these people to judge us? When was the last time they were faced with Year 9 bottom set on a Friday afternoon? Have they ever had to teach algebra to a Year 7 group fresh from a PE lesson, where they have arrived (as usual) bouncing off the walls, 5 minutes late as they took so long to get changed?

    It’s never going to be pleasant being inspected. It’s never going to be something we don’t feel the need to over prepare for in advance. It can however, be something that we know will be productive.

    Why don’t we make inspections part of our CPD?

    Middle leaders and Senior Leaders alike are expected to be able to observe lessons and give a reliable judgement on Teaching and Learning. Why not use them as part of the inspection team?

    We could create a system much like jury duty, where 3 schools from an area are called upon to provide 1 Senior Leader and 2 Middle Leaders between them. They would become part of the team inspecting another school within that area, alongside 2 or 3 HMI’s.

    What’s the point?
    – Those three people would gain invaluable insight into the inspection process, which can be taken back to their own schools.
    – They are current teaching professionals.
    – They would be familiar with the inspected school’s context in terms of their intake and catchment area.
    – It would help to ensure that internal observations are carried out comparatively across schools, as more and more staff take part in this process.
    – We would need to employ less paid inspectors, thereby saving money.

    Most importantly, as teachers, we would know that someone is watching the watchmen. We would know that at least some of the team inspecting us are actually doing the same jobs we are, facing the same daily pressures.

    I’m sure there would be opposition to this idea from the many ex-inspectors that make a small fortune as consultants ‘preparing’ schools for Ofsted, but shouldn’t we be putting our trust in our school leaders instead?

    With the point of Ofsted being called into question in the press, now is the time to stand up and be heard.

    We are entrusted with the futures of our young people. Why shouldn’t we be entrusted with the future of our schools?

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