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The OFSTED Collection

External accountability is good so more must be better.  This has been the mantra of successive governments for the past two decades.  External accountability has been both a reality of my professional life and a plague on it.  I’ve decided to pull together my various blogs relating to Ofsted into a metablog.

Photo Credit: Navz via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Nivs via Flickr cc

The problems with a high stakes external accountability system are:

  • The tail ends up wagging the dog;
  • School leaders become partially focussed on protecting their schools instead of fully focussed on improving them and
  • People believe what Ofsted say or write must be true.

Social media in particular has started to expose the Ofsted process through greater transparency.

We all want the same thing – a great education for all our young people, irrespective of their background or the school they attend.  We are now at a crossroads and have to make the decision which way now?  Do we continue with the current adversarial external accountability system or is another way needed for the next stage of the journey.

Along with a few other people I will be meeting Michael Cladingbowl (@mcladingbowl) the National Director of Inspection Reform at Ofsted on Friday.  I’m sure we will discuss all things Ofsted.  I’m happy to take your thoughts or questions along with me – please add them as a comment below or send them to me via twitter or add them on my new Facebook Page.  Michael has generously given up his time on numerous occasions to meet with practitioners, please phrase your comment or question within this spirit, thank you.

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


This appeared in January 2013 following another revision of the Ofsted framework.  The revised framework made clear to inspectors that there was no preferred teaching style.  We all have our own biases and simply removing references to them in reports does change the biases emanating from what inspectors report.  The post suggests a way forward would be one overall grade based on Progress8 in secondary schools and a move towards local annual safeguarding audits.

@HeadsRoundTable – Revise, Revise, Demise for Ofsted


This post was based upon a presentation to @HeadsRoundtable in February 2014.  As the achievement grades drive everything, let’s be honest and just have one grade and call it what it is.  The potential benefits of moving to the new Progress8 measure, and an equivalent for the end of primary education, are explained in the post.  These would be the first steps in the eventual demise of Ofsted, once greater controls have been built into the system.

Ofsted – Shorter More Frequent

Photo Credit: AhmadHammoud via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: AhmadHammoud via Compfight cc

This was blogged out shortly after the ground breaking news that lessons would no longer be graded with respect to the quality of teaching.  This has now been enshrined in the latest Ofsted Handbook, July 2014. Whilst inspectors will no longer grade the quality of teaching, in a lesson, they may grade leadership and management based on a single lesson observation.  Is it just me or is this utterly bizarre?  The post looks at the potential opportunities and threats of some of the changes.

#Imagine … No Ofsted

You have to be in your mid-forties to remember life before Ofsted.  In this post I ponder the What, Who, When & How of Inspection.  It starts to open up a line of enquiry around the reliability (consistency of standard applied) of Ofsted inspections and further questions the validity (whether the measure actually assess what it claims).

There is a significant issue over both the validity and the reliability of the grades in every Ofsted Report. 

Looking at validity first, the issues of grade alignment create problems.  The four different grades in a report are increasingly aligned and there is an explicit expectation that this will be so.  Quality of teaching over time is now determined by reference to achievement.  Achievement of students is complex and subject to many influences including the quality of teaching.  The quality of teaching is now de facto achievement.  The same thinking flows through to behaviour and leadership and management which are all moderated back to the achievement grade.  Whilst the grades have different names they are essentially all achievement.  It makes no sense keeping them all.

Another far more disturbing issue around validity is whether Ofsted is actually measuring the impact of the school or the relative level of advantage of its intake. The following two articles provide a statistical basis for being very concerned:

What’s the Easiest Way to a Secondary Ofsted Outstanding?

Is Ofsted’s Grading Scandalous

The latest corporate line or collective wisdom, on reliability, seems to be that it is headteachers who are to blame.  The line goes that a heads ability to argue or fight her/his corner during the inspection.  Surely this cannot be right?  Whilst it is suggested this can be solved by bringing all inspections in house, why have Ofsted never produced an objective standard for the aspects it grades during an inspection?  The latest handbook, which removes the grading of individual lessons, has no secure methodological statement for how the quality of teaching will be assessed and then graded.

We are moving into (or possibly staying in) idiosyncratic and murky judgement water.

There is no educational researcher worth her/his salt that would try to produce an academic research article based on the random methodology currently used by Ofsted.

#Imagine … Accountability, Intelligent and True

“School leaders” refers to both middle and senior leaders. The “middle tier” is the term used to describe the responsible body which could be a local authority, the directors of a multi academy trust or academy chain.

“School leaders” refers to both middle and senior leaders.
The “middle tier” is the term used to describe the responsible body which could be a local authority, the directors of a multi academy trust or academy chain.

I’ve moaned enough about Ofsted, there is plenty to moan about.  This was my attempt to look again at the accountability system in England and reimagine it.  Schools need to be held accountable that is only proper and right.  In Catholic Social Teaching there is the principle of subsidiarity.  Each body (teacher, school/academy, LA/MAT/Federation) will be enabled to accomplish by its own initiative and efforts that which it should without its authority or purpose being taken from them by a “higher” authority.  A “body” must not be deprived it of its competence. Ofsted’s/HMI’s purpose should be to intervene in a subsidiary fashion thus offering help.

Ofsted’s question moves from, “How good are you?” to “How can we help you become better?”

Throughout my Ofsted blogs there are some consistent themes.  We must have accountability within the education system.  We deserved Ofsted because we didn’t hold ourselves to account properly or rigorously enough.  The next phase of improvement, in our education system, will require greater peer accountability and a very different role for Ofsted.

Here are some possible questions/proposals, for Michael Cladingbowl, to get you thinking.

Is it time to move to Ofsted reports based on a single grade and a narrative around achievement and the impact of the quality of teaching, behaviour and leadership & management?

Given the lack of validity and reliability within the current system, why can Ofsted not produce an objective measure for achievement (everything centres on it) based on the new Progress8 measure and an equivalent for primary schools?

How can Ofsted fundamentally change their role within the education system to support schools and not judge them?  Performance tables will still provide objective data to parents on some aspects of a school’s performance.

Can Ofsted get ahead of the change curve or will they just be playing catch up forever?  Three major revisions to the schedule in twelve months suggest there is a big problem.



2 thoughts on “The OFSTED Collection

  1. Good to see that you will be raising these issues with Mike Cladingbowl. I am concerned about the use of dubious data, too and have written extensively about issues relating to data. My recent blog might be of particular interest: http://icingonthecakeblog.weebly.com/blog/the-halo-effect-in-english-education

    Posted by Jack Marwood | August 27, 2014, 7:47 am


  1. Pingback: All Aboard for the Ofsted Dambusters | @LeadingLearner - August 30, 2014

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