you're reading...
Leadership, OFSTED

Ofsted Get it Right for Once … Oh No They Didn’t

There was a real sense of delight in Andrew Old (@oldandrewuk) blog post, just before Christmas, A Christmas Miracle – Ofsted Get it Right for Once”

I hope I’m right in inferring from the various twitter conversations that Andrew has long been campaigning for appropriate recognition, within the Ofsted framework, of high quality lessons that are teacher led and more “traditional” in nature.  I’ve read a number of his posts based on Ofsted reports promoting the alternative view.

Ofsted Subsidiary Guidance p.18 & 19 - January 2014

Ofsted Subsidiary Guidance p.18 & 19 – January 2014

The amendment seems eminently sensible but this is not simply about teachers talking more but how teachers can enhance students’ learning through strategies such as direct instruction and better mediate students’ understanding through high quality input and questioning.


I wondered about whether to write this post or not as there is the real danger of appearing as the pantomime villain.  In no way do I want to denigrate the work that Andrew Old and other colleagues have done in securing the amendment within the Subsidiary Guidance but I simply don’t think Ofsted have got it right yet.

Why Have All These Different Grades?

The table below was produced from data presented at a recent ASCL Conference summarising the inspection of one in seven secondary schools for Summer Term 2013.  This is a huge number of inspections and a very substantive database.  Note the almost identical percentages for overall effectiveness, achievement and the quality of teaching, now taken as over time which effectively equates to examination results as a proxy for achievement.

Ofsted Inspection Data

The much more positive gradings for Behaviour & Safety have been met with the following response from Ofsted in the latest Subsidiary Guidance (highlighting obviously mine):

Ofsted Subsidiary Guidance p.19 - January 2014

Ofsted Subsidiary Guidance p.19 – January 2014

I read this quite simply as make sure the Behaviour & Safety grade is the same as the rest, Leadership & Management will surely follow.  The one interesting thing for the future is that inspectors are now expected to comment separately on behaviour and safety with the lower grade dictating the overall grade for the section.  For example, safeguarding is good but behaviour requires improvement produces a “requires improvement” grade overall.

You have to question why five different grades appear in the report, when in essence the Achievement grade drives the whole process and there is now going to be even greater alignment of grades than ever before.

Outcomes Nationally, Safeguarding Locally

This post is not an argument for no accountability, in an earlier post, Reflections of an Apprentice 2040 Visioner, I accepted that as an education system we had deserved Ofsted because we failed to accept fully our responsibilities for educating, to a sufficiently high standard, all young people.  To mis-use a quote from Andy Hargreaves, the point at which we failed to accept our responsibilities as a profession was the point that Ofsted stepped in to hold us accountable.  However, the perverse and now corrosive impact of Ofsted has long since stopped serving a purpose and a different Accountability framework is needed.

The new “Progress 8” measure in secondary schools and end of Key Stage 2 tests have the potential to spawn a whole new industry in “data dashboards”.  Ofsted’s role should be limited to scrutiny of a school’s outcomes, which at a secondary level has already been given as: one grade above expectation in the Progress 8 measure meaning no inspection visit the following academic year and more than half a grade below expectation means prepare the room for the inspection team!

Safeguarding needs to be dealt with at a local level on an annual basis with a simple “effective safeguarding” or “not effective safeguarding” outcome.  The latter would lead to a monitoring plan and on-going checks until safeguarding was judged effective.

Separate to the desktop exercise on Progress 8, we need regional teams, operating within a national framework, but separate from Ofsted composed of highly experienced and well regarded HMIs and Lay Inspectors who have two areas of responsibility:

  • Ascertaining and reporting on the practices, systems and approaches in highly achieving schools as part of the knowledge network that seeks to capture and share the best our education system has to offer.  The visit to a school may last a week to really get underneath what works with the “knowledge”, from across a number of schools, collated into reports and shared as suggested below.
  • Working with schools who need to raise the achievement of their students.  No judgements, no flying visits but a shared responsibility for helping ensure all students’ life chances are enhanced through a long term commitment to working together.

I would like to nominate @MaryMyatt and @Heatherleatt – their blogs show an immense amount of common sense and balance – to lead on this but I’m biased.

A national minimum benchmark needs to be set about what is acceptable and the system needs to work to ensure all schools reach this standard within a five to ten year time period, at which time the bar can be raised.  Genuine improvements in learning and standards need to be reflected in improved examination outcomes – no artificial raising, lowering or maintaining of pass rates.  Remember the 100 metres hasn’t got shorter, people are just running it faster and the same can be true in education.

When Will Ofsted Get it Right?

Ofsted Home Page

Oftsed will get it right when they stop inspecting teaching, behaviour and leadership & management.  What amounts to a total of three days in a primary school (two inspectors for one and a half days) or about seven in a large secondary school doesn’t provide sufficient evidence to make far reaching conclusions that can sometimes damn or laud a school inappropriately.  The idea that inspections produce typical behaviour, from school leaders, teachers or students, just isn’t right and the snapshot is too blunt an instrument in terms of teaching and behaviour to continue to be used.

Issues of teaching and behaviour are for determination by schools not Ofsted.  A school’s approach to these will impact on Achievement which should be monitored nationally and schools held accountable.  Don’t forget students and parents will make judgements about the quality of teaching & behaviour in a school every day so there isn’t exactly a shortage of accountability on these issues.

My 2014 advice to Ofsted is simple, “Oftsed when you are in a hole, stop digging!”  It’s time for a new approach.

If you want a slightly more light-hearted perspective on Ofsted why not try Auld Land Syne #Ofsted Style by @TeacherToolkit and make sure you listen to the irrepressible @RachelOrr in fine voice.

Tom Sherrington’s view of Ofsted I wholeheartedly agree with and you can read it as part of his post, Taking Stock of the Education Agenda: Part 2.

However, if you are expecting that call someday soon there are some Ofsted Resources here that you might find useful, that is, until the revolution comes, brothers and sisters.


Heather Leatt’s blog is also a valuable source of information as is Clerk to Governors.



18 thoughts on “Ofsted Get it Right for Once … Oh No They Didn’t

  1. My belief is that the following has happened in relation to the behaviour and safety grade.
    There are schools around the country with ‘good’, often white, often middle class children, often in rural locations (Suffolk?) The students behave. They are polite. They do what they’re told. They are safe. They’ve been like this for years.
    However, they are not making enough progress. The school hasn’t ‘moved forward’, in some cases for decades. But why would they? They have well behaved children!
    Now the shock has come. It’s not enough. The expectations aren’t high enough. They may not know how to change things. Imagine having to ‘move’ a large amount of your staff to completely rethink what makes a ‘good’ school. Being happy at school is now not enough.

    So I think that the B&S grade should be allowed to be higher than the rest. My guess is that a school which receives this kind of grade distribution fits what I’ve described above. But they will need significant support to move forwards in the other areas. Your ‘regional teams’ might just do this!

    Posted by missdcox | January 1, 2014, 10:16 am
  2. Oh yes they did……..

    I would misquote Topol from Fiddler on the Roof………

    “he is right, and he is right….they can’t both be right?”

    I agree with Oldandrew. The specific changes he identified is one instance only regarding a couple of narrow and closely related issues. I don’t think he was suggesting that Ofsted had the whole thing right.

    In the blog you illustrate several areas in which Ofsted’s actions/decisions are inappropriate.

    Your analysis is wise and well reasoned, aimed at continuous improvement within the system. Oldandrew’s is a fear more about achieving as many views to his blog as possible, which seems to be the main motivation for the content and structure of his recent posts.

    So I do not think you are the villain, more the Dick Wittington to Oldandrew’s Pantomime Dame. We should not discount the Pantomime Dame but we should perhaps give a little more attention to the wisdom of Dick Wittington. Alas in these days of soundbites, blogpost views and twitter followers, the Dame will I fear be more popular.

    A great post. Happy New Year to all.

    Posted by bt0558 | January 1, 2014, 11:32 am
  3. An excellent blog post and it resonates in many ways to our school which receives a judgement of 2 for Behaviour and Safety alongside 3 for all other areas.
    It was the final part of your blog post which caught my attention because it gives a solution to a significant problem we experienced during our inspection. I will not rehearse our dissatisfaction with the make-up of the team (which I have done already in blog posts) but the biggest source of frustration for us which was the fact that it was such a blunt tool.
    I had taken on the school in September (5 months before the inspection) but we spent the whole of the inspection process being told that “it was too soon to judge on our progress”. This meant that I, as a new Head teacher, was being judged on data for children I had never met and teaching from teachers who had left the school.

    The most sensible approach to me would have been to have received a phone call from an HMI telling us that they would visit the next day. Under this system the HMI would make a judgement as to whether the school was taking its position seriously and making progress. If this was the finding the HMI would recommend an inspection date by which time the OFSTED team would be able to make a judgement. If the school was not moving forward the HMI would be able to do one of two things – call an inspection or work with the school until their next inspection.

    This seems to me to be a more intelligence led approach to school inspection which would certainly impact positively on schools in our area which falls into SMW’s east coast, rural, white working class group of schools. Since being found to be Requiring Improvement we have worked with an HMI, and attended regional HMI training; we have found the process to be wholly positive and has had a very positive impact on staff who feel that they are being given the opportunity to move forward with support rather than fearing the future.

    I know that my approach is driven from a fairly selfish point of view but I do think that it fits within your rationale which I hope is taken up by someone within OFSTED for consideration.

    Posted by Bill Lord (@Joga5) | January 1, 2014, 12:50 pm
    • Dear Bill,
      I think your story will also resonate with many others. We are a “coastal town” with all the great challenges that poses and sometimes feel like another one of Ofsted’s targets. It’s time for something different that helps schools and the system move on. I think the days of Ofsted, in its current guise are limited, I certainly hope so. There are a lot of great people working on inspections but their talents are currently wasted.

      Posted by ExecutiveHT | January 2, 2014, 10:38 am
  4. Refreshing to start the year with some sensible and progressive thoughts.

    Posted by nadia bibby | January 1, 2014, 4:40 pm
  5. Disappointing that Ofsted are looking to bring B&S grades in line with the others – that really will make it farcical having more than one grade, and will be a real retrograde step. It’s bad enough at the moment with B&S being tied so closely to BFL, meaning that schools are judged as having behaviour that requires improvement when the text says things like “Pupils are extremely polite and well behaved around the school, but occasionally in lessons weaker teaching means that some of them are not fully engaged with their learning”, which is clearly a description of behaviour being GOOD.

    Back in the days of 25 grade descriptors, it was common to have schools spanning two or three grades across the set, as they were largely independent of each other – this made it meaningful having different grades given. With the reduction to five grades and having four of them almost inextricably tied together, it became pretty much irrelevant having the separate grades given – they might just as well have had a single grade for “Overall effectiveness, achievement, teaching, leadership and management”, given that only the tiniest minority had any variation there. And those that did were almost always acadummies who were given the benefit of the doubt over L&M and that grade was allowed to be bumped up even when there was no evidence of improvement yet in teaching or achievement…

    Posted by Stevie D | January 3, 2014, 1:55 pm


  1. Pingback: Teacher Training and that Ofsted News | Panic, Greatdays, Cgrades and Equivalentfractions (PGCE) - January 2, 2014

  2. Pingback: Updated #Progress8 May Just Be A #Gamechanger | @LeadingLearner - January 7, 2014

  3. Pingback: ORRsome blog posts to kick start the new year 2014! | high heels and high notes - January 8, 2014

  4. Pingback: @HeadsRoundtable – Revise, Revise, Demise for Ofsted | @LeadingLearner - February 4, 2014

  5. Pingback: #Imagine … No Ofsted | @LeadingLearner - June 15, 2014

  6. Pingback: Bloggers lead the campaign to reform Ofsted | Pragmatic Education - August 2, 2014

  7. Pingback: Bloggers lead the campaign to reform Ofsted - August 5, 2014

  8. Pingback: The OFSTED Collection | @LeadingLearner - August 29, 2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Leadership: Being, Knowing, Doing (New Book)

Liminal Leadership


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 32,090 other subscribers
Follow @LeadingLearner on WordPress.com

Blog Stats

  • 1,605,856 hits


%d bloggers like this: