Celebrating the Machine

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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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Wouldn’t it be good for everyone if English schools stopped celebrating OfSTED achievements?

Teachers, school leaders and schools in England are due significant OfSTED reforms in September 2017. This period will mark the end of a second year, where little (radical) change to the School Inspection Handbook have been made; a period which was promised as part of the Workload Challenge reports published late in 2016.

I argue that the inspectorate in its current guise remains part of the problem. Before we miss this golden opportunity to do something radical about a system that is far-from-perfect, I would encourage all teachers who are tweeters and bloggers, reading this post in England, to begin sharing their hopes for OfSTED reform before it is too late. I doubt the likes of you and I will be consulted on anything significant, so now is the time for our voices to be heard …

If  we are to remain reliant on (arbitrary) opinions on the performance of schools, how can we trust the judgments being made? Sometimes this assessment is a reasonable measure on the performance of a school, but because human beings are involved in the evaluation and performance of a school, we know any judgement made from following a binary flowchart can have the potential to lack validity or reliability. Meaning, the process can have a different outcome in a different setting with different people conducting the process.

A system that is partially to blame for extreme-levels of bureaucracy and accountability on schools and teachers at classroom level, as well as a factor in the current recruitment crisis – where are all the teachers we (do not) have in England?

Here is a simple reminder of the 10 actions I would like to see put in place before September 2017 passes us by.

10 Reforms for OfSTED:

In June 2016, I wrote 5 Hopes for Amanda Spielman (the incoming Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, OfSTED) who is now 6 weeks into her new post. Six months later in November 2016, I wrote 10 Goals for OfSTED and shared this with her directly.

  1. Move towards inspections over a period of time, rather than 1 or 2 day visits.
  2. No more schools celebrating the machine: take down banners on school gates. Let’s celebrate the work going on within the school, rather than what people observe from a couple of hours on site. See graphic below.
  3. Improve the process for assessing the performance of a school; make it more sophisticated beyond simply looking at data e.g. progress 8 or key stage 2 results. Anecdotal evidence should not be used.
  4. Let’s banish school improvement plans; specifically monitoring and evaluation.
  5. End the 4-tier overall judgment grading system and make the outcome, simply: Good / Not Yet Good.
  6. Let’s move to a peer-review process where current practitioners are peer-assessing schools on a continual cycle; even better if the school is on the inspectors own doorstep so that they can re-visit the school and be held to account for their evaluations.
  7. Keep ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ as a key judgement within the framework. Removing this from the overall framework only supports OfSTED’s ability to focus more on data and outcomes rather than what we are all in the classroom paid to do: to teach.
  8. The overall judgement should be less high-stakes with an action plan published to the school / public rather than a report.
  9. Sadly, OfSTED does lead to increased workload. Until this is recognised, we will continue to have a broken system. Add to the inspection evaluation, ‘reward and recognition’ as detailed in the Investors in People framework so that schools do more to protect their greatest asset: the staff.
  10. Recognise that individuals who are involved in the process of inspection schools are susceptible to the observer-expectancy effect, which involves an unconsciously biased set of expectations that are tested in real life situations. Situations which can essentially affect reality and create self-fulfilling prophecies as a result. e.g. expect a good outcome and you are likely to find one.

It would be good to see some significant changes to the process to ensure OfSTED’s longevity and credibility – because I do believe we need to keep something in place to ensure high standards of education for all of our children. However, it cannot exist in its current form. Let’s take down any banners that are ‘celebrating the machine’.

To finish, here is a simple graphic I’d like the reader to share widely.

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2 thoughts on “Celebrating the Machine

  1. Have you looked at the CIS model for school improvement?

    Much more valid AND meaningful for the school

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