I promised myself a few weeks ago, after lots of blogging about Ofsted, accountability and peer review, that there would be no more Ofsted posts for quite some time. However, on Friday evening I changed my mind after Sean Harford’s, Ofsted’s National Director, speech at the ASCL Conference.
Whilst a lot of the media coverage on Friday was about the funding of the Royal College of Teaching and the formation of a group to look at standards of Professional Development (congratulations to David Weston on being given the Chair of the group) these changes will take five to ten years to start having a real impact on the profession. The speech below might have a much greater impact in the next few years.
Sean Harford was a late replacement for Sir Michael Wilshaw who was unable to make the ASCL Conference. I doubt very much that Sean decided to shoot from the hip and say the first thing that came to his mind. The speech suggests that plans may already be in place, even if the planning is at an early stage, to move beyond inspection to peer review.
I have to admit to a sense of absolute delight and sat with a rather smug smile on my face for the rest of the evening. Here are some of the highlights and my reflections:
“If Ofsted is still around in 10 years’ time…” I doubt they will be. In what ended up as an inglorious rant at a conference in June 2014 I gave Ofsted three to five years. This is looking increasingly likely, Sean went on to say, “I have very little doubt that during the five years of the next parliament, we will continue to see our education sector evolve further down the path towards a fully self-improving system,”
“… in 10 years’ time, schools could be assessed by each other under a peer-review system, rather than by inspectors.”
These things have a way of gathering momentum, read three to five years. With the direction set, austerity biting and the profession no longer running scared of Ofsted the process quicken. We could see within twelve months of the start of the short inspection the process of peer review being trialled with HMI alongside to validate and assure the process.
“… I would see Ofsted’s role being to moderate judgements and assess the robustness of peer-review arrangements – making sure they weren’t just cosy fireside chats between colleagues.”
In my last post on Ofsted, Ofsted’s Dead: Long Live Peer Review I made the exact same point as Sean did on Friday. HMIs must influence through wisdom and not fear. If school’s are to lead the system they must be given the authority to do so.
Causal Links & Credit
It’s probably important to acknowledge, at this point, that it is highly improbable that there is any causal link between my blog and changes that are occurring to the inspection process. Whilst I’ve been outspoken on this issue, I doubt highly that there is anyone at Ofsted waiting for my latest blogging offering or giving it much consideration. Great credit must go to ASCL, and the other teaching unions, plus groups like HeadRoundTable who have provided a forum for proposals to be formulated, using social media and more usual media outlets to promulgate their message.
Credit is also due to people working from within Ofsted. Mike Cladingbowl was a hugely effective Director of Reform at Ofsted and Sean Harford has since taken up the baton. Whilst both have been strong defenders of the inspection process, some elements of which I consider totally indefensible, they have made massive progress in reforming the system, in a very short period of time.
We live in changing times and times which are changing for the better. We need to build much greater Quality Assurance process, for example, around Safeguarding
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