Teaching Ideas To Bin: Mocksteds

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Has your school ever had a ‘mocksted’?

Dress-rehearsals are a good idea for Royal Weddings but for school inspections they are a glorious waste of time. ‘Mocksteds’ are one idea to definitely bin and burn.

Practice and rehearsals are very important. Getting ready for a class assembly or preparing for a school concert all demand time, effort and plenty of ‘run-throughs’ so that everyone can feel confident and put on a good show. But this performance also extends to staging a pretend school inspection.

Needless trauma

How wonderful – what a great idea to put staff through a fictitious trauma so they get to experience all the stomach aches, sleepless nights, sweating and panic attacks associated with the real thing. Yes, let’s secretly keep workshy staff on their toes and forget their wellbeing.

Does your school still have ‘Mocksteds’, or a ‘dry-runs’ for the school before inspectors arrive? This can take the shape of an ‘internal’ mocksted run by your own staff or an external mocksted run by a crew of ‘experts’. A mocksted is an awful idea, a purposeless farce that doesn’t test the waters but creates anxiety and resentment. It’s more likely to make the real experience substantially worse.

They have little or no support except perhaps from so-called ‘consultants’ and companies selling perosnalised mocksted packages who can make a fast buck offering their ‘inside information’ about what to do and what not to do. Some of these freelancer chancers sell a message of fear, play on insecutities and charge an eye-watering £800 a day for playing Ofsted. They also laughably offer lesson observation MOT’s. This is just bonkers.

Worse still, some practising Ofsted inspectors have been moonlighting and selling themselves to schools for a bit of extra cash. Ofsted launched a major crackdown on this a few years ago and  Ofsted’s director of corporate strategy, Luke Tryl, said he wants to put an end to the “voodoo consultants” who peddle “vampiric” “mocksted” because they add zero-value.

But what happens if you get an ‘outstanding’ mocksted but a week later get put in special measures by real Ofsted. Can you get your money back?

Schools have far better things to be doing than wasting their time and money on a phony inspection that actually doesn’t mean anything. School leaders need their heads looking at if they think for iota they make any positive difference.

The Ofsted view

Mocksteds were once the in-thing and lots of schools were doing them. At one time, any mention of a challenge about their usefulness could even get you the sack. So what do Ofsted think about ‘mocksteds’?

The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, agrees that school leaders should not be undertaking fake inspections because they are a waste of money. In her speech at the 2018 Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Annual Conference in Birmingham, the Ofsted chief said,

We do not want you to produce “Ofsted-ready files”. And, above all, we do not want you to employ consultants to perform mocksteds.

She said the same thing in 2017 and reminded us that “when school finances are under pressure and workloads are high, running mocksteds is an unacceptable waste of staff time and scarce pupil funding.” Sean Harford, National Director of Schools, agrees and has said, “I cannot see why any school would/should want to put itself through a mocksted.”

Is this message getting through? If schools are still doing mocksteds then they need to stop.

Mocksteds are a pantomime performance but if you do happen to have one then relax and let the children join in the charade. When they see a pretend inspector get them to call out, “She’s behind you!”. If this is all too much then take the day off sick. Mocksteds are a bullying tactic and part of the excessive accountability culture that has blighted our system for too long. These pseudo-inspections make a full-blown mockery of the inspection system which in itself is deeply flawed.

Let’s question ‘what’ and ‘why’ we are evaluating, then ask ‘how’ it can be done and finally, by ‘who?’ Surely a peer-review network within local authorities and MATs would work better between schools. Sharing best practice, right on your doorstep.

Read the rest of the Teaching Ideas that TT thinks we should Bin in 2018!

John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 20+ years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as a national in-service provider, project manager, writer and editor. I am the teacher without a tongue. www.johndabell.com

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