Pages

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Ofsted's Challenge


As the last few weeks has shown yet again there are few areas of consensus in education. But if anything comes close it's this: Ofsted inspections are too inconsistent. And despite Sir Michael Wilshaw's genuine commitment to judging outcomes not pedagogy too many inspectors are ignoring him. (Though others aren't).

At the highest level these concerns are now openly discussed. In his Times' article on Monday Michael Gove wrote:

"The quality of inspection is still sometimes inconsistent. That’s why...the chief inspector, is rooting out weak inspectors and recruiting more serving heads to monitor other schools."

I take from this that conversations have been had and action is being taken but I fear toughening up the training and recruitment of inspectors, while essential, won't be enough. There is a deeper problem of trust which NAHT general-secretary Russell Hobby expressed well in his conference speech at the weekend:

"I believe Sir Michael Wilshaw when he says there is no model lesson, but it is a brave school leader who takes this to heart, when there is no way of knowing whether the team which turns up on your doorstop will have read that bit of the guidelines."

Until reasonably-minded leaders believe that Ofsted will judge them on impact not teaching style the prospect of an inspection will continue to act as a major drag on innovation and autonomy in many schools. I say "reasonably minded" because leaders need to take responsibility for not being unnecessarily cautious. But right now the uncertainty is too great. And it's very hard for teachers to stand up to their leaders' insistence that "Ofsted wants us to do it this way" unless they can be certain they really don't.

I'm sure many in the profession would argue the best solution is to scrap Ofsted altogether; but this would be a big mistake. We need to be able to hold schools accountable in a way that isn't entirely reliant on data; and that can help leaders and governors understand weaknesses in their school. This fascinating report from the LSE suggests that schools found to be inadequate do see a real and sustained improvement in outcomes.

However, while I think we need Ofsted, I also think it needs to do more to rebuild confidence than offer reassurances about their motives. Something more radical is needed. I'm not sure what it will take but perhaps they could start by stopping talking about teaching altogether and instead focus only on  learning. It is, in any case, unhelpful to brand an individual teacher as "requiring improvement" or "inadequate" on the basis of a single short observation. But it is, usually, possible to tell if there's good, or outstanding, learning happening in a school: if classrooms are calm; pupils are engaging with appropriately challenging material and their progress is being properly tracked.

As John Hattie has put it :

“I’ve given up on teaching. I don’t care a damn about teaching any more...[you go] into a classroom and seen some crusty bugger who sits in the corner and has been teaching this way for years, and it’s not the dominant style, but they have incredibly positive impacts on kids. Why would you change them? Our debates are too concentrated on how we teach, whereas all the visible learning work tells me it needs to be about the impact of how we teach. Observe the impact....It is a sin for a teacher to observe another teaching in the act. All they do is tell them (nicely and subtly) that they should teach more like them. The only reason for observing is to observe learning

After all if inspectors weren't allowed to talk about teaching they wouldn't be able to criticise it...

10 comments:

  1. I'm currently half-way through the Ofsted inspection of my school so this was interesting and timely to read. It is not just Ofsted that are an issue. The very schools that need innovation in teaching are the very ones that are too scared to do it.

    If you are close to the floor target and at risk of going into a category (and all that entails) then you want to play safe, to give Ofsted 'what they want' and be seen to be playing the game.

    Those schools that are far from this point have the feedom to do as they wish and to take risks with teaching and learning.

    Hence, Satisfactory schools stay Satisfactory, whilst others move on. It takes a very brave Head to say "forget Ofsted" when the consequences of it all going wrong are the end of your career.

    Yes, we need Ofsted but we don't need the career-ending consequences of a bad Ofsted judgement. I've been through Special Measures and seen its consequences to careers and that's what needs to change.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If the Government believes in the benefits of a market-led system in education with some form of regulation to prevent abuse and ensure fairness, then I am not clear how Ofsted-led school inspection fits with this currently. Ofsted seems to have cornered the market for both regulating and running/out-sourcing inspections. Remove the latter role and focus solely on the regulation. If that doesn't work then scrap all inspections and make groups of school governors responsible for intelligent accountability within a local area. Of course we could always re-think the market-led approach entirely ...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I simply don't understand how we have come to believe that scrapping Ofsted would be a 'big mistake' because the alternative is for schools not to be held accountable. There are others way of holding schools accountable. I put forward one in my Demos report on Detoxifying School Accountability: the case for multi-perspective inspection. I argue that this would be a significantly better way of helping leaders and governors understand weaknesses in their school. The problem of inconsistency in inspections is inherent in a model that relies on particular individuals to make judgements about their school. You cannot simply 'fix' this, you have to create a different sort of system, one that recognises any judgement worth having is inherently subjective.

    ReplyDelete
  4. In the time I've been a Governor, our school's had 3 Ofsted inspections and they could not have been more different. It's not just because the framework has changed (several times), the personalities and approaches of the various lead inspectors have been chalk and cheese. (Experience aired at a recent meeting of chairs/vice-chairs of Governors in our borough suggested our experience is not unique). I have no problem with Ofsted holding schools to account and, more importantly, helping them to do better. But I do worry about the training of inspectors and the messages they're getting from the top (Gove that is, more than Wilshaw) about what it is they're supposed to achieve. The latter could be resolved if Ofsted were to be truly independent rather then acting as Mr Gove's enforcer.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Leadership of schools is not always about doing as you are told but instead doing what is right for your pupils. Knowing what is "right" is part of the professional aspect of schools. See my Responsibility Diagram (http://www.ace-d.co.uk/id5.html) to see what I mean about the role of school leadership. The word "brave" has been used to describe the necessary actions of a head. It is not just brave to do what is right it is essential. Schools need to be "creative" and not just compliant.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Take out loans for a home improvement project? I realize this blog is about credit services, but honestly, unless you’re a professional real estate investor, home improvement projects should be funded with savings. If you’re managing your income properly, there should be plenty of money available for projects like this. You just have to prioritize where you invest your savings.

    takrenovering

    ReplyDelete
  7. Focusing on learning instead of teaching is now absolutely critical given childrens' access to the Internet. There should be a re-balancing of teaching and learning happening, which there is in some schools such as those that have gained the Naace 3rd Millennium Learning Award. David Brown, Ofsted Lead on ICT recently struggled with a question at Naace Conference, on whether teaching could be outstanding if the teacher did not use technology, and answered on the basis of it being possible that in the lesson inspected the teacher might have decided not to use any technology, for excellent reasons. But his answer avoided the whole issue that online platforms are being used to extend learning out of the classroom and to support homework, to enable pupils to collaborate out of school and to do preparatory work before lessons, so that the time together in the lesson can be used much more effectively for learning. This must be apparent if the inspectors look. Some schools are stimulating a learning culture amongst pupils that significantly raises their energy in learning and that persuades them to commit more of their own time to learning. And where this happens the pupils are becoming independent learners, magnifying the learning impact of the school very considerably.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am Mariam Baurice used every single spell worker on the internet, spent untold amounts of money and discovered they are all fakes…i was the fool though; doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In the end, I decided that I wanted a tarot reading to know what my future held for me; I contacted a woman who lives locally to me and she told me about a man named (priests Abija); he does not advertise on the internet, has another job for income, has no set prices, makes no false promises and refuses to help anyone that cannot be helped and even helps for free sometimes, he will give you proof before taking money. He is a wonderful man and he was the only person who actually gave me real results. I really hope he doesn’t mind me advertising his contact on the internet but I’m sure any help/ extra work will benefit him.contact him as spirituallighthealing101@live.com He travel sometimes.love marriage,finance, job promotion ,gambling voodoo,lottery Voodoo,poker voodoo,golf Voodoo,Law & Court case Spells,money voodoo,weigh loss voodoo,any sicknesses voodoo,Trouble in marriage,it’s all he does Hope this helps everyone that is in a desperate situation as I once was; I know how it feels to hold onto something and never have a chance to move on because of the false promises and then to feel trapped in wanting something
    more. his cell phone number 5182932141 !

    ReplyDelete
  9. Just read this - it's like we share a brain!

    One point though: when Hattie says, "The only reason for observing is to observe learning” there's a problem. You can't observe learning - you can only observe performance, or as Coe puts it, 'poor proxies for learning'. Much better to stop grading lessons altogether as I told your ex-colleagues at Policy Exchange: http://www.learningspy.co.uk/blogging/judgemental-lesson-observations-end-nigh/

    Oh, and by the way, I think the comment above mine is spam :)

    ReplyDelete