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.
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.
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):
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?
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.