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Accountability, OFSTED

Applying to be the Next #HMCI

This is another one of my Mastermind posts; I’ve started (a few weeks ago) so I’ll finish despite the fact that Andrew Morrish has already made a great early move to become the next of Chief Inspector of Schools with his article, Advice for the next Ofsted chief: it’s time to scrap your job.

Unfortunately for me Andrew is familiar with the dark side whereas I’ve just been calling for the demise of Ofsted to anyone who would listen; the organisation has had its time.  The short presentation below was a fifteen minute think piece delivered at a Heads Roundtable meeting in February 2014.  Never one to miss the opportunity to name drop the other two short presentations were by Sir David Carter and Chris Holmwood; yes that’s right, the very same Chris Holmwood who has done some excellent work on leadership development at Shenley Brook End in Milton Keynes.

Jonathan Morgan

Saxton Bampfylde (ref: QBFS)

PO Box 198

Guildford

Surrey GU1 4FH

16th March 2016

Dear Mr & Mrs Morgan,

Thank you for the opportunity to apply for the soon to be vacant position of Chief Inspector.  I believe I have the passion, commitment and desire to bring about the necessary demise of Ofsted.

I was delighted to read that the next Chief Inspector will “have a key role over the five years of their term in delivering the manifesto commitment to reduce the burden of inspection and to continue inspection reform so that inspection is re-shaped to meet the challenges facing the education and children’s services sectors.”  This manifesto commitment, if I’m very honest, had rather passed me by but there’s definitely a need to get on with some reshaping as the issues facing the system are multiplying.

The First 100 days (Well 1st Day at Least)

The first key issue will be to deal with the inadequate provision for Safeguarding though as I reveal later I’d like to move away from inspection gradings, in fact, I’d like to move away from inspection altogether.  As your literature rightly states, “Ofsted, and therefore the Chief Inspector, has a direct role to play in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all our children and young people.”  I would contend that turning up once every three years or sometimes much, much less often than that is not a sensible approach to keeping the nation’s children safe.  There needs to be a shift to annual external auditing of Safeguarding within schools a bit like the current financial arrangements To maintain the current Chief Inspector’s view that low morale is to be seen as positive by leaders I’d make schools pay for this audit provision despite the recent biting real terms budget cuts; don’t worry if appointed I won’t mention the cuts again.

As part of this successful leadership strategy, I’d further lower morale by ceasing all new inspections the day after being appointed, statute permitting; can you imagine the angst this would cause amongst schools and their leaders who had spent months, possibly years preparing for our visit.  School leaders would then find themselves in the position of having so little to do they would turn to focussing on teaching, assessment and learning, building the school’s ethos and getting behaviour spot on just to fill their working hours.  It’s a cunning plan to improve schools through no inspection; the 1960s baby boomers might not leave in their droves to pick up their final salary pensions, people might decide to give it another years as there would be the real opportunity to do things for children instead of for Ofsted as we’re not going to turn up and the sense of agency created might be liberating and attractive enough to bring in a new generation of graduates.

My team (did you notice the use of “my” there so Mr & Mrs Morgan – think they might be an item – could picture me in charge at Ofsted) would have enough to do establishing the new safeguarding arrangements and working with schools we had already decided were RI or popped into a category to take on any more inspections for a year or two.  This would also allow all the changes to the National Curriculum, examination syllabi, performance indicators and grades or scaled scores to bed down a little which might make a bit of sense to those in the blobosphere.

The Table Never Lies (Unlike the Tea Leaves)

Many people are likening headship to being a football manager these days; take a few £s off the pay cheque and the similarity certainly in terms of job security is uncanny.  This is even more so if you choose to work in some of our more disadvantaged communities.  Rather than shying away from this I propose we go the whole hog and using the old footballing adage, “the table never lies” shift to a system by which we look at a school’s effectiveness based on the results they have achieved over a number of years.  There’s too much attempting to predict the future and the joint Education Datalab and FFT Aspire Report “Floors, Tables and Coasters” left us rather exposed.  It felt a bit like the whole grading of lesson fiasco which we started, schools picked up with gusto – mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, linear progress of pupils, the tyranny of the book scrutiny, triple marking and so the list of crimes against education go on.  We need to stop and accept what we can, with some degree of certainty, hold schools accountable for and what we should leave to schools, parents and pupils to make judgments about.  I think this would be liberating and might help “ensure Ofsted is trusted, valued and credible.”

From No Notice Inspections to No Inspections

As I mentioned to HTRT in February 2014, the Progress 8 measure has the potential to be a game changer.  Likewise the new value added measure for primary schools.  Whilst not a fan of political involvement in education, which to be honest now borders on micro management, it would be appropriate for politicians to set a value added bench mark for schools.  If a school fails to reach it every year, say for a three year period, then a decision is needed about whether the governance and leadership are of the quality required.  We’d be in there before year three gathering data and information on which to make our judgements.  These along with a set of recommendations would go to the Regional Schools Commissioner as part of an integrated and coherent approach to accountability and assessment of a Trust’s fitness to govern.

However, if a school is above this benchmark, remember the table never lies, what are we doing wasting scarce public money inspecting good schools?  Let them get on doing the good job they have obviously been doing for years.  This would help ensure that the Ofsted Board’s strategic priority to ensure it does not introduce unforeseen burdens on those it inspects is more than met; don’t inspect them in the first place and hey presto the Board has overachieved in the swish of a magician’s wand.

Value for Money (Accounting Officer Stuff)

The Ofsted Board, as one of its three strategic priorities for 2016-20 is consulting on improving its “quality, efficiency and effectiveness, ensuring inspection and regulation provide value for money through actions including considering whether inspection is proportionate across Ofsted’s remit, and transforming operating systems to make the most of Ofsted’s data and intelligence.”  With public finances being hit hard and likely to reduce further I would seek to provide great value for money by getting rid of waste like the Ofsted Parent View website.  It’s not that I’m against parents putting their views forward, in fact, I want any parent who has an issue to turn up at school and hammer down the door of those tea swigging, biscuit eating, lazy enemies of promise head teachers who are stopping an army of bruisers and battle axes taking their rightful place as the leaders of our schools … sorry, sorry I seem to be having a SMW moment.  Not enough parents are using these websites.  I’d be happy to hand the server space over to the Department for Education so they can set up, at minimal cost to schools, an online system for advertising for teachers or support staff.

Sort it Out Over Curry & Beer (or an off dry Riesling)

The current stand offs between the Department for Education, the new National Schools Commissioner and SMW is a bit of a problem all round.  The incoming Chief Inspector needs to be able to work constructively with all parties; radically I’d like to include the teaching profession in this.  Radical, I know, but sometimes we’ve got to think the unthinkable.  One of the main strengths of my application is that back in the day when Sir David was David and the SSAT frequented the ICC, Birmingham, for its annual conference, we were both part of a larger group of head teachers who would come together for a meal on the Wednesday evening of the conference.  Even after a beer or two we never once ended up in a fight, honest.  Instituting a Wednesday evening “breaking bread not heads” meeting, which doesn’t need to be on a Wednesday night or involve any bread at all, to sort out issues like the overlap of work between Ofsted and RSCs and the lack of overlap between the areas they are responsible would be a far better way of doing business.  This far less aggressive style of leadership, a bit less breaking of heads and Heads, might just be a better way of operating as we approach 2020.

Wisdom Scouts

If the North is going to improve the South must get worse; likewise for the gap to close, the disadvantaged must do better whilst the advantaged do worse.  I’m not suggesting that we adopt a slogan of “Down with the South and the Advantaged” just accept the reality of a zero sum game.  Having the ability to identify schools where great results are being achieved is our privilege; we have the opportunity to go in and find out how and the responsibility to report clearly and widely.  If a school has achieved great results for disadvantaged pupils by calling round to get them out of bed and into school, narrowing their curriculum (think English & Maths plus three other GCSEs), moving to more or less didactic teaching, engagement in extra-curricular to develop a sense of belonging we need to report without fear or favour to inform the system of what works.  This is not the same as saying a particular approach is desirable.

In short I can assure you of my earnest desire to assist with the radical reform of the over bloated and confused accountability system which has developed in England over time.

Please file my application carefully, many thanks.

Photo Credit: Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr cc

If you’re looking for the Application Pack it is here.

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