Is the fear of Ofsted inspections real, and what cost do they have on teachers’ wellbeing?
This blog shares the stark realities of Ofsted’s impact on teachers’ mental health, evidenced by personal accounts.
Well, Ofsted inspectors have now received mental health awareness training! That should fix it …
Does Ofsted do more harm than good?
Earlier this week, the Education Select Committee published its first inquiry into Ofsted’s work with schools.
I have written about other sections of the report, drawing out key messages about the complaints process and single-word judgements. The committee reported that they “heard much about the impact of Ofsted on the workload and wellbeing of teachers and school leaders.”
“This trickles down to the students, and therefore recruitment and retention of teachers,” Tom Middlehurst (ASCL) told the Committee.
Anonymous, and important sources of evidence
On the back pages of the Select Committee’s report, there are 235 sources of additional evidence. Some are anonymised, and I have included a few below that really struck a chord with me:
“During the two days Ofsted are on your site it is the most stressful time. I have worked in other organisations before teaching and I cannot compare another time like it. Your blood pressure feels as if it’s going through the roof!” (See evidence)
“I am an experienced educationalist and school leader and have had positive outcomes from inspections. I, however, feel that the process is broken and that I will probably leave education early because of Ofsted.” (See evidence)
“For the last year of my headship, I woke up daily at 3am and regularly had heart palpitations. My relationship with family suffered as I spent all of my time either working or worrying about work.” (See evidence)
The workload for this primary head teacher sounds ridiculous as a result of inspector demands. However, many can attest to the reality. In this account, “several staff reported that they thought the lead inspector’s smelt of alcohol!”
Is it any wonder that there is now a crisis in teacher and leader recruitment and retention? Read Part B of this account!
And how do Ofsted get a sense of the impact they have?
Well, in some schools, teacher responses to surveys can be traced.
There are many more accounts, but I will finish with this one:
“We are writing this as concerned teachers about the way Ofsted affects everyone emotionally and mentally. Even writing this now brings back horrible feelings … The whole experience and process was brutal. As a strong team, we felt completely demoralised and broken, to the point where we questioned our own capabilities as teachers. Following the inspection, we questioned our every move and decision and whether we wanted to stay in the profession.”
All teachers and head teachers will accept Ofsted has a role to play across the education system, but at what cost?
There’s a good reason why Ofsted has not yet researched the impact of inspections on teacher, mental health and attrition. The evidence is clear, and it would be a nail in the coffin for the inspectorate.
We know school inspections have been around for approximately 150 years and won’t disappear soon. The big question is, how should Ofsted reform itself to ensure long-term viability?