This is a blog about the need for Ofsted to become reliable.
Twitter has been buzzing and beeping mobile devices up and down the country. Over the past week there was just one notable blog that everyone has (or should have) read! It was so well-received, that even Sean Harford, Ofsted’s new National Director for Schools responded directly to Tom Sherrington’s blog; OfSTED Outstanding? Just Gimme Some Truth. More proof to my readers that bloggers can move ivory towers? I think so!
Read this summary below and if you do not have a blog, or would like to share your Ofsted story anonymously, get in touch.
Last Friday, The TES gathered a rather nice summary which features Sherrington and Harford, as well as responses from Stephen Ball, principal of New Charter Academy in Greater Manchester, Russell Hobby general secretary of the NAHT, Jonathan Simons, head of education at the Policy Exchange think-tank and the rather nifty software company, @Watchsted.
I have provided my own highlights from each source, particularly a short summary from Tom’s blog which includes a response from Sean. You will need to read the full transcript to gain full context.
Sherrington writes; “I reject the idea that schools can be judged in a meaningful way via inspections.”
Harford responds; “… it is absolutely possible for HMI through inspection to provide such developmental feedback from the practice of analysis, discussion with the school’s staff and observations around the school …”
Sherrington writes; “… the process of qualitative and quantitative information into a simple set of final grades, with one overall judgement grade … and the absence of proper validity trials continues to astonish me. “
Harford responds; “I agree that Ofsted has not done enough in the past to test the reliability of inspection … I have built in reliability testing for the pilots for the new short inspections this term …”
Sherrington writes; “The data delusions that underpin RAISEOnline hold sway where they have no right to and the complex truth of how good a school is continues to be reduced to the absurd simplicity of two or three data points …”
Harford responds; “I agree that some inspectors and some schools focus too much on a narrow range of data …”
Sherrington writes; “Why am I bothered right now? Three reasons. Getting ready for the term ahead … We’ll probably go for ‘Good’. It’s a ‘best fit’. But what’s that about? Why should we need to find a best fit? Why can’t we tell our complicated story? Who benefits from reducing it all to a one-word descriptor? … “
(The other two reasons Sherrington states are one; real improvement. That is, telling it how it really is and thirdly, the consequences (or high stakes) for individuals headteachers and schools that are judged by their outcomes.)
Harford responds; “I agree: if your self-evaluation process does not benefit from you grading yourself in the final analysis, then why do it? … If the SLT’s judgement is that their school will respond better and more effectively if the self-evaluation is not graded, then that’s their judgement … The self-evaluation should be a catalyst for improvement.
It’s worth noting that the new short inspections for G2 schools from September 2015 will not make all the section 5 judgements … In this way, they will be less ‘cliff-edged’.”
Sherrington writes; “What would the ‘Gimme some truth’ version of all this look like? Get rid of the whole idea of grades and report inspection outcomes in the form of areas of strength and priorities for improvement … Report the data outcomes in a detailed data report that includes much of the RAISE Online profiling … instead of waiting until December. Introduce a School Response section to be written by the Head and Chair of Governors, published with the report. This would give due weight to the school’s Self Evaluation; if the inspectors disagree with the school, the school could still assert its position with reasons.”
Harford responds; “This sounds interesting and in the digital age I don’t know why schools couldn’t do this on their own website anyway. “
Sherrington writes; “Ensure that at least one member of the inspection team is someone who actually knows the school on the basis of regular visits and interactions.”
Harford responds; “The inclusion of the school’s SLT (and at the very least the HT) in inspection meetings currently provides a similar role in schools now. I can see some merit in what Tom is saying here, but the problem could be objectivity/conflict of interest.”
Sherrington concludes; “Those inspectors had better know their stuff – because we will be on it like they won’t believe! It’s our agenda, not theirs and I’m not having my teachers dance to any tune but our own.”
with a final remark from Harford; “I couldn’t agree more!”
You can read Harford’s direct response to Sherrington, by clicking here: Sean Harford’s Response To Gimme Some Truth (December 2014).
Over the past year I have shared 5 Secret Ofsted stories from readers willing to share their Ofsted stories (anonymously) via my blog. In total, these five posts have received over thousands and thousands of views.
- A leadership experience of Ofsted #SecretOfsted
- Why lesson feedback can be divisive? #SecretOfsted
- #SecretOfsted: A special school experience for @OfstedNews
- When observations go wrong: #SecretOfsted by @TeacherToolkit
- Overall Effectiveness by @TeacherToolkit #SecretOfsted
If you have an Ofsted experience you would like to share; please contact me below in good faith.