5 Hopes for Spielman

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What are the hopes of the teaching profession now that OfSTED have a new chief inspector?

Last weekend, I had a very brief (private) Twitter conversation with Amanda Spielman – former Ofqual chair, appointed new Ofsted chief inspector – after her appointment as HMCI was announced on 10th June 2016.

Despite no teaching background, the Secretary of State Nicky Morgan said this about her:

Ms Spielman has been chosen as the preferred candidate because of her impressive breadth of experience across the education sector and her proven commitment to raising standards for children and young people. (Source)


According to a profile interview in Schools Week:

Spielman “attended a state convent primary, Notre Dame, [Glasgow] where her reports mention her whirlishness …”

Amanda Spielman Ofqual Ofstd HMCI Twitter

“At 10 she transferred to a small boarding school in Dorset, her mother’s old school. There were 100 girls on roll; just 12 in Spielman’s year and only two (besides her) who went on to university … Schoolwork was easy and her teachers, worried that she wouldn’t behave, created a unique timetable that allowed her to study science, maths and multiple foreign languages at O-level. To continue at A-level, however, she had to move to a London day school. ”

Used to national press, Spielman was on the front line of the English GCSE fiasco of 2011. Remember that?

English GCSE results shocked every student and school with dramatically adjusted boundaries the regulator made to stop top grades reaching new records.

I’ll never forget when 22 of our year 11 students failed the GCSE benchmark in the school where I was working at the time. Twenty-two lives who we knew were definitely a ‘grade C student’; their hopes dashed and their futures stunted …


5 Hopes for Spielman:

Recently, Ofsted has taken steps forward to improve its effectiveness, strengthening the inspection handbook and improving inspector training and quality. Ofsted have also invited the likes of you and I into roundtable discussions to express our views about reliability and validity of inspections.

I may not agree with the decision to appoint someone without any teacher experience, but I’m confident a person with such a background will have the knowledge and skills to be able to lead the organisation.

If I could offer 5 hopes for Spielman to deliver during her tenure, it would be this:

1.Peer led:

I see a day when OfSTED no-longer inspect in its current guise. I do see a period in the near future where schools, school leaders and teachers are monitoring and evaluating in peer-to-peer networks, in a more developmental sense and not in the current ‘high-stakes’ format that we have come to associate OfSTED today with. The first half-term is a critical time to review who is inspected and what sources of information are used.

2. Reliability:

Eradicate poor decisions and have inspectors inspect inspection teams. Including, inspections with pre-RAISE online data for schools judged using the unvalidated data, versus a landscape against all other schools judged with validated data.

3. Less high-stakes for schools and careers:

With decisions being less than favourable and increasing academy chains and their big-wigs sat in ivory towers, a poor decision – even when accurate – can lead to unnecessary culling and academy chains palming-off teachers and school leaders who have not made the desired benchmark. I’d also like to see more and more schools refrain from emblazoning banners across their school gates, shouting from the roof-tops about ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ features.

Who can blame them in a system which such an increasing data-driven industry, where outcomes are vital for admissions, budgeting and job security? All this makes the job harder to achieve and the high-stakes model makes it harder to recruit than ever before.

An overall judgement of a school is just one aspect of evaluation in two days. We know Ofsted does not look at everything a school does, nor consider how far Ahmed and Sarah have come on since they last ate a hot dinner with their new foster parents. Data does not tell the overall picture of one child.

4. Controls workload and workflow:

Only a few years ago, information written in the School Inspection Handbook was translated and interpreted by 25,000 schools. Soon enough, rumours and Ofsted quick-wins became the norm. Learning styles, VAK and triple-marking made teachers jump through hoops, culling their creativity.

Today, gimmicks and fads are high on the agenda and Ofsted are working harder to eliminate preferences in inspection reports and dispel myths in their publications. More work needs to be done to report ‘rogue inspectors’ who still grade lessons, but Cladingbowl and Harford were very clear: teachers should report them.

Recent efforts to bust myths have been warmly received and we need more of them, much more regularly. I’m still astonished how few schools and teachers are aware of these helpful documents. If you are not following Harford’s blogs, then I highly suggest you do so and share it widely with your colleagues.

5. Bias:

Do not promote teaching styles. If we are to see an end to Ofsted grading schools on Teaching, Learning and Assessment forever, the pilot planning for this should be happening in inspection conversations. This is clearly not going to happen until 2017/18, but is worthy to note: strengthens Ofsted to report on other sources of evidence to determine how teaching is operating day-to-day. Inspectors will be looking at ‘over-time’ outcomes. Most likely, school data, league tables, RAISE online reports, dashboards and the like.

Until then, we need inspection reports to start to model inspections with consideration that the grading for teaching and learning will no-longer be. With this impacting on school inspection outcomes for those inspected between now and 2017/18, it will be helpful to refrain from advocating a particular style over any other which leads to a better or worse inspection outcome. If a school wishes to promote knowledge over skills, have students sit in rows repeating mantras or working in groups using iPads, that is their prerogative. It should not be for Ofsted to comment on what they like to see.

I would also ask that if a pilot is to be conducted on inspections without teaching and learning judgements, that Ofsted publish this report for the community. They did NOT do this when Ofsted conducted a trial in the Midlands (June 2014) before lesson gradings were removed officially from inspector evaluation forms … This is taxpayers money and frankly, I want to see the process and how this will lead to valid judgements about a school.

If not having any teaching experience is a good thing, then I believe Spielman could offer a fresh perspective on accountability within the inspectorate itself, as well as offer teachers some new hope. I’m just about to ‘Direct Message’ this blog to her now …


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