Ofsted chasing & ‘whack a mole’


In the USA there is a past time called Tornado chasing or storm chasing. Participants spend hours and days ‘reading’ the skies, working out whether or not there will be a dramatic storm heading their way. And if it isn’t heading their way, they jump into a 4×4 and go to find the storm. Companies offer experienced ‘guides’ to take you to them. For many, the chase is part of the experience.


Photo credit  http://www.extremetornadotours.com/index.php/the-experience

Do you chase the storm?

In yet another Saturday morning dubious analogy, I see this in schools. The storm is Ofsted. It’s almost like a hobby or an addiction. Looking for the ‘signs’ that Ofsted is coming. Ridiculous conversations including ‘well they’re in the area so they must be coming to us’.

I know this because I am also guilty of it.

But there are some leaders that run their schools around it.  All decisions are made around what the DfE and Ofsted are focussing on at the given time.

Some Christians use the moral guide ‘What would Jesus do?’ these people use the leadership guide ‘what would Oftsed want?’

What’s the problem with this?

Have you ever played this game at the fair?

Photo credit http://ww2.hdnux.com/photos/45/60/154681/3/628x471.jpg

The problem is they just keep popping up!

I think it’s called ‘whack a mole’. In case you haven’t, the purpose of the game is to hit moles that appear through the holes so that all moles stay down. They pop up randomly and quickly. It takes a fast response to keep up!

It probably doesn’t take long to see my dubious analogy #2. If we replace moles with Ofsted/Dfe guidance, we are playing a seemingly impossible game. Waiting for the next ‘guidance’ to pop up and rush to follow it. By the time you’ve done this, it’s disappeared and something else pops up. You can’t win!

The solution

I am not suggesting that any leader or school should ignore what is being said however I do think that a school should not be basing decisions on it.

If a school has established its core principles and beliefs, one would hope based around the greater good for students, then I don’t think it needs to change much when the newest publication is released. I don’t think Ofsted or Sir Michael Wilshaw want schools that are changing everything when they announce it. Their underlying assumption is that schools have the moral purpose to start from a solid ground of educational standards. They don’t need to be told.

An example is SMSC/community cohesion/RE/values education.

I would hope that a school understands how importance it is for a child to have a knowledge and understanding of the place they live, the country they’re in and the planet they live. I hope they believe they giving a child the opportunity to discuss big questions in life, horrible disasters in life, great celebrations in life, is an essential part of what we can give children. The opportunity to discuss why people do things, including things they may not agree with but to develop a sense of empathy or at least a set of skills to be able to justify different points of view.  It doesn’t matter what you call it, it should be there. So, as with the latest letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw, as a result of the Trojan Horse affair, he has told inspectors to particularly focus on SMSC from September. This should not pose any issue to any school. A school should see the importance of this and have it embedded in their core values well before the Trojan Horse affair began.


So, whilst you may think I’m naive in this view, I truly believe that if a school has a core set of educational values that they can afford to ‘ignore’ these updates. Not out of arrogance but safe in the knowledge saying, ‘Yes, we already do that’.




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