Inspector don’t you know? Don’t you care? Don’t you know – about love?

So far I’ve been through four Ofsted inspections. One as a head of department and three as senior management and aside from the first they’ve been pretty much ok. The exception was my first where the inspector looking at A Level Media Studies spent an hour interviewing students with me there but saying nothing who were all incredibly positive and then wrote up that the students wanted to have better gear and felt held back. He knew this wasn’t what they’d said and I challenged him about it to be told he was doing me a favour and I could use it to get some investment from the school. I was miffed but it wasn’t going to shut the school down and my head knew what had happened so it wasn’t going to stitch me up.

The other three were conducted in a positive sense and depsite us having some touch and go moments on day one of the earliest one of them the inspectors have been pretty fair, easy to work with and seemed to want to help us get the best report they could and also to help with some coherent next steps.

I’m aware of the fact that this is not the case around and about and that there are tales of some actions that are perceived as horrendous injustices and as such I suppose it’s no surprise that when we see Michael Wilshaw getting wound up some see it as a reason to celebrate and to react with some sense of excitement that this – and for me it seems like rather a large leap from criticism to abandonment – is the death knoll for school inspection.

Let’s go back a little though. Less than a month ago a number of the voices rehearsing their choruses of ‘Ding Dong’ were at pains to point out that Wilshaw had made it quite clear that a wider range of teaching styles and approaches should be equally well regarded by inspectors and David Didau (who I should point out I haven’t seen delighting in the current news) wrote a blog about being consulted along with others on observations among other things and buoyed by the fact people appeared to be listening asked ‘how cool is that?’

And yet when he comes under attack we relish it with the most open schadenfreude. I suppose because he’s the bugger sending all of those swines out to judge us but this seems like a lazy response that is beneath us as a profession and misses the question asked by @wonderacademy about what comes as a replacement. 

I’ve had a suspicion for a while that the criticism of Ofsted by parties other than those on the receiving end which seems to have culminated in this latest story serves to pave the way for a new system of school inspection and evaluation. A good thing you’d say and I’d agree in relation to certain aspects. Most obvious to me would be the inconsistent way that it seems some inspectors are reported to have interpreted the guidance – moving Michael Wilshaw to beg ‘please, please, please’ – and examples where it seems the reports delivered on the day and that sent to the school later bear no resemblance to each other and a mystical editor has been at work to construct a final report. It’s also maddening to see the potential for schools to be used as vehicle to attack local authorities with an apparent agenda to criticise a county meaning the grades that schools receive perhaps being harsh as part of a bigger agenda. So believe me, I ain’t saying it doesn’t need some fixing!

But this is different from it being scrapped. Especially if we are talking about it being got rid of in response to a report from think tanks that might have been influenced by some special advisors who, as far as I can tell, don’t score too many popularity points out there with teachers! We already know that a lot of the judgement about schools is formed through the data prior to arrival in the school and we find ourselves either justifying a judgement based on this or working to see if we can explain the context behind it and that it’s where we are now not where we are as a school. What would concern me is that this could become the be all and end all of school judgment and more importantly and more frightening to me would be that we would find ourselves bereft of any creativity and innovation either with curriculum or what we do in our classrooms as we list kings and queens from our Premier Inn surveys and make sure all our students know what a jolly good bunch the English, and especially the upper classes, were as they went along their way in the good old Empire days.

So yes, let’s talk about reform, let’s talk about consistency and wider understanding of schools from an inspectorate. If all involved in inspections could be as positive and focused on development and taking a school forward as our last lead inspector and the HMI we are currently linked with, or the well respected @MaryMyatt then the relationship between inspectorate and educators could be substantially different. All I’d like to be sure of is that we are looking for positive alternatives and that we are involved in the discussion as if we allow the current body to be replaced by something yet more draconian and with greater distance from schools (this is the day after all that the twenty most influential people in education is named by The Times with only eight ever having taught) or perhaps divided to allow what is seen by some as pet projects to be judged differently, then all this excitement could be the sound of turkeys voting for Christmas.

Lots of Love

Colin

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