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OFSTED, Redesigning Schools

Engagement, Polite Civil Disobedience or Blank Piece of Paper? #Ofsted

It’s mid-afternoon on a Saturday suddenly my phone sounds and I’m in a twitter conversation. 

It’s an interesting one but possibly Sean and I should look to get out a bit more often at the weekend.  In my defence I was actually resting up before going out to watch Wicked at the Lowry, brilliant.  The post that fired off the discussion was “Have Schools Met Their Waterloo” in which I suggested it might be time for a bit of polite civil disobedience.  Schools should not make the EBacc compulsory for all students and all school leaders who are inspectors should send in their resignation letters.  If you want to read the post first, please click on the image below:

Tweets 1

Sean’s reply seemed a bit short.  With only 140 characters to play with twitter can be a bit like that.  It’s easy to appreciate that if you’ve just spent a year or so of your professional life pulling together one of the most radical changes Ofsted have ever seen – the no grade narrative inspection report for good schools – a blogging nobody calling for it to be boycotted might not exactly go down well.  Maybe I’ve got a bit carried away and school based inspectors should engage in the no grades narrative reports inspections but don’t get involved in any inspections involving grading, you’ll be embarrassed at what you did in years to come.

I’ve sometimes wondered what I would do, as a head teacher, if a thousand students quietly and politely left lessons on a sunny day and sat out on the field, equally politely refusing to return to class.  “It is one of God’s glorious days, Sir.  Why not come and sit down with us and enjoy the day as you’ve been working so hard of late.” 

Tweets 2

Polite non-violent legal civil disobedience has its place in a democratic society to help bring about desirable change.  All schools receiving a narrative only report, no grades, and moving towards validated peer review seem desirable to me.  It’s clear myself and Sean don’t see eye to eye on the issue of Ofsted inspectors being part of the school system.  I see them as an external do to rather than an internal, to the system, do with.  The answer to my final question above looks like a no.  The scrutiny committees will apparently only consist of two people, an HMI and someone other than me.  At least I offered to help Ofsted on this occasion.

Tweets 3

I sense Sean is beginning to get warmed up now and enjoying throwing in the odd challenge, after all its his job.  It’s a good call about maintaining credibility with parents.  I still have significant concerns over the validity and reliability of the inspection process, hence the suggestion to move away from any grades, with parents as well as other end users over playing their significance.

Tweets 4

Clearly I’m getting rattled as I can’t even spell “school” in the tweet below, though Mrs LL was getting fed up of me being on my phone and this silly predictive text thing on my mobile causes no end of problems.  My view has been for a long time that schools are more likely to improve in a low stakes peer review process as long as progress outcomes show no major and sustained concerns.  The short inspection process, which if things go well, with its no grading approach has a lot to commend it particularly if it was led by the profession with training and moderation by HMI, in the first instance.

Tweets 5

Interestingly, Sean’s response is not a “no, nay never” or “over my dead body” but an evolutionary one step at a time approach.  I’ve always been inpatient; you only have to ask my mum and dad for confirmation of that, or any member of staff I’ve ever worked with to be honest.  Further improvements to the inspection process are clearly on the cards.  It’s likely the whole accountability structure is moving into a state of perpetual flux in the years ahead, evolution may not be quick enough to keep pace.

Tweets 6

All credit to Sean and before him Mike Cladingbowl for engaging with people both face to face and via social media.  They are Ofsted’s more acceptable face.  Sadly the behaviour of some inspectors and HMI can, on occasion, leave a lot to be desired and the lack of independence of the Scrutiny Committees is an ongoing cause for concern.

Is Push, Pull & Nudge Enough

Tweets 7

Leaders push, pull and nudge things forward but is this sufficient for the accountability and inspection process.  Everyone has their own ideas from Emma’s call for “Viva the revolucion”

Tweets 8

To Sam Freedman and Mike Cladingbowl’s evolutionary musings and ideas

SamFr & Mike C

To a full on, critical and astute analysis of the problem’s facing Ofsted following the new “coasting definition”, with all the problems that has, is now in the public domain.

Mary Bousted

Acknowledgement: Schools Week.  Click to read the full article.

Blank Piece of Paper

Sometimes things get in such a mess you’re better starting with a blank piece of paper and design a new system from scratch.  What do we need from an accountability system if we are to move from good to great: rolling three year progress data analysis with either peer review for the vast majority of schools or no grades external reviews for lower performing schools to identify which require support and which are already on a secure improvement journey; HMI to become a targeted support and improvement service rather than a universal inspection force and annual safeguarding audits?  Thoughts to follow … cue another blog



2 thoughts on “Engagement, Polite Civil Disobedience or Blank Piece of Paper? #Ofsted

  1. I think in the end though the real issue you have is an image one. The last few weeks have really opened my eyes in terms of the current debates and how they link in with teaching over the last 40 years. Truth be told, I don’t think most teachers and heads are particularly ideologically driven in the same way but for example, Sean’s point about parents would take it is an important one. Until as a profession we fully get our heads round the damage that teachers themselves have done to their own reputation, we can’t push for the autonomy that we wish. While it is not the fault of the current crop – we still need to be aware of why there is a difference between Ofsted Chiefs and Ofsted Inspectors, the extent to which education reform has stalled due to entrenched ideas and the effect this has had on society.

    I think most teachers would do what it takes but when they are stymied by Ofsted Inspectors who push their own agenda (which is not the government’s agenda it seems) then we are caught between a rock and hard place. They push for teaching methods and ideas that do not work but if not shown end up getting schools a bad reputation, the Government looks at international measures and says we are failing. We need a consistent, non-ideological approach and if leaders like you who are pragmatic about methods can be part of the inspection process then it will change things and lead us to greater autonomy.

    However, I do think that anything we do which makes us seem ideologically tied to maintaining the status quo as teachers and schools will always result in greater involvement not less. We are paying the price for past failures but we need to understand them to be able to rectify them.

    Posted by teachwell | July 11, 2015, 7:53 am
  2. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

    Posted by heatherfblog | July 14, 2015, 11:15 pm

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