So what now?
I personally believe that we need Ofsted to hold schools to account.
- Now compulsory SEFs have gone, to some people’s relief, I think there is a hole (quick search shows it’s still available for EYFS?) . A hole for checking essentials. A way of ensuring that the processes and systems a school have are effective and having the desired outcomes. I propose that schools should have to present ‘where they are’ in a common format to justify their own self evaluation. This is then shared with the inspectors. Their job is then to collect evidence that supports or contradicts this. The inspectors are therefore holding the leaders to account on what they are saying is happening. Leaders should be able to easily direct inspectors to where they can find the evidence. If a school is effectively monitoring and evaluating over the two years NOTHING should be a new document for Ofsted.
- The record is not supposed to be onerous. It shouldn’t take hours. It should be simple. Schools that have SDP, SEF, RIP, headteacher’s reports etc should streamline them all and put it them one document. All staff should see it. All staff should contribute. It can easily be set up electronically.
- Ofsted’s purpose should wholly be to check. Schools should be presenting a picture. Inspectors should then check all is being done. They shouldn’t be judging the teaching, teachers or children. They should just be checking that the school is doing things effectively. The final judgement is whether the school has accurately reported what is really going on and consequently if they are ‘good enough‘. Mick Walters suggests in ‘Thinking allowed on Schooling’ that fine grades should disappear. It’s either ‘good enough’ or ‘not good enough’.
- Ofsted should go to every school at least every two years regardless of it’s previous grade. Leaving schools that are a 1 is not part of an effective accountability system. A lot can happen in two years. Accountable means ALWAYS accountable.
- They should seriously consider ‘no notice’ inspections. Controversial. But if it is just ‘checking’ what schools are doing and schools are doing what they should be then why should they need any notice? Having an emergency assembly with students and staff staying up all hours planning is not showing what a school really does on a day to day basis. They should not really consider much of what they see on the days unless it seriously undermines the schools ‘story’. If Oftsed are saying that learning should be judged by progress over time then I think that everything in the school should be measured over time. A two day snapshot is not representative of the school and should thus be seen as a ‘taster’ not how it always is.
- It is irrelevant if they see a lesson that isn’t great. As long as the school has acknowledged that they are aware that this happens. If their school evaluation says all lessons are fantastic, the inspector then needs to ask some questions to find out why. If all the lessons aren’t great, then the leaders are most probably inaccurate in their school evaluation which isn’t ‘good enough’.
- Teaching/leadership standards – If the Government have teaching standards that one can assume means the standard at which is ‘good enough’ then why aren’t these used across the board? No separate criteria for Ofsted. If they need to be tweaked then they should, but they shouldn’t be different to what Ofsted is using to hold schools to account. There may need to be teacher standards, non-teacher standards and leadership standards to ensure that all roles are clear (Prof. Robert Coe suggests the Danielson framework for teaching). A teacher should simply be able to show how they are meeting the standards. The job of leaders and managers in the school is then to support, develop, monitor and evaluate in meeting these standards across the school. They then are meeting leadership standards. If there is evidence over time that the teachers and leaders are meeting the standards then it is ‘good enough’. I’ve already blogged here about how I feel that teachers should use the teaching standards to form their CPD.
- These standards should form the basis of everything that happens in school in terms of CPD, appraisal, coaching, mentoring, line management etc If I move from one school to another the standards should remain the same. I shouldn’t have to learn the ‘made up’ criteria that that school has chosen to use for observing lessons etc
Ultimately, a school should be driven by the people in it. We need to know what we are being held to account with and that process must be as objective as possible. The standards decide the ‘what’, the school decides the ‘how’ and the ‘how effective’ and finally Ofsted holds to account by rubber stamping (or not) the school’s evaluation.
I think there is a role for Ofsted but it should move towards holding the school to account for what it says it is doing and the consequent impact. Is this what it says it is doing anyway? If so it needs a re-brand. A new emphasis. The ‘judgement’ is whether the school has evaluated where it is correctly.