Imagine you’re from a family that eternally struggles to make ends meet. It’s been the same for generations; your family is trapped in deep, long term poverty. You’ve just received another Ofsted report from the school – the one you attended and your children attend – it requires improvement or has been dismissed yet again as inadequate.
The sense of hopelessness you feel is exacerbated. You have read similar things before and similar about the local hospital, social services and economy. You know what will happen next: vulnerable pupils will start disappearing from the school; staff will churn; your children will be taught by endless supply teachers and there will be a bright shiny relaunch of the school. You’ll then wait for the pointless cycle to be repeated.
Ofsted’s pejorative term “stuck schools” shows the pervasive mentality of the organisation. The term predominantly applies to schools which have greater numbers of pupils suffering from the impact of long term poverty. These schools are found across the country but in larger numbers in the Midlands and North where the greater proportion of the long term disadvantaged currently live.
What you understand as a parent is that the school – like the area – has been let down and left behind by successive governments. People in suits land, make judgments and then disappear. You don’t want any more pointless reports; you simply want the significant good the school does to support your children and family, in the most challenging circumstances, to be recognised and the school helped to improve.
Decades of inspections from Ofsted have failed to address the problem; their impact overall has been to cause greater numbers teachers and leaders in these schools to move out of the profession or to other schools, where they are less likely to be hammered by the accountability system. To understand these schools the education system and government will need to expand its point of view; as Richard Rohr would say it is the view from a point (in this case from the point of affluence and influence). There is a different viewpoint; a different perspective to be heard. They could do worse than listen to those teachers and school leaders working in these communities – many of whom are excluded ironically due to their Ofsted grade – who have interacted for years with the parents and their children.
The #PauseOfsted campaign launched at the Headteachers’ Roundtable Summit is, first of all, seeking to create the space for an open and genuine debate about school improvement; school improvement not excessive, high stakes, cliff edged school accountability must be our focus in the decade ahead. This requires us to shock the system into change; enough people have sat in meetings and exchanged letters to tell us that is not the way to lever significant change.
Hence our invitation to utilise our collective agency (The #QuietRevolution):
- If you are currently a school based/employed Ofsted Inspector we are asking you to make yourself unavailable, with immediate effect, for any inspections for the foreseeable future. A number of colleagues have already decided they would prefer to resign as they can no longer support the current inspection regime.
- Within the next fortnight, please write to your professional association or union requesting that they support the call to #PauseOfsted and seek a fundamental review of the high stakes, cliff edged accountability system. Members’ views matter to professional associations and unions so please make your voice heard
- Over the next month, please contact two or three members of Headteacher/Governor Groups across your locality/region and share this briefing and discussion paper; we need everyone to help spread the word. Ask them to consider supporting our call to collective agency.
- During the next half term, meet as a local association/group with #PauseOfsted as a formal agenda item. Discuss and commit to fully supporting the call for a fundamental review of the accountability system.
- During the next term, working with Governors and Directors, agree to no longer support applications from current employees for time away from school to carry out inspections or new applications to be Ofsted Inspectors.
We cannot be part of the collective failure that leaves our most disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils behind.
Over the coming weeks we will collate, update and summaries the changes we would like to see as part of the review of the accountability system. Conscious of the problems that are created if one organisation thinks it is all knowing and must be all powerful; we will share them realising that others may have different and better proposals to improve schools or may adapt proposals we have and further improve them.
This is not a short term strike of lightning campaign; rather a #QuietRevolution where the steady cumulative work of many – organisations and individuals leads to #PauseOfsted; actions always speak louder than words.