A good Ofsted experience but….


was it good because it had a positive outcome? Or because it IS a ‘good’ school? Is it causation or correlation or neither?

Can we separate out our emotional response to Ofsted’s judgement with our view of how the inspection was carried out?

I’ve never experienced an Ofsted like it or worked in a school who respond to inspection in this way. It was on a meeting agenda once in the weeks before. The item lasted 5 seconds. The deputy said ‘I have nothing to say about it. Do what you usually do’. This is in stark contrast to previous inspections in my career where the staff meeting the day before inspection is a ‘do this’ ‘do that’ ‘don’t do this’ ‘don’t do that’ format. I didn’t receive ONE email regarding how I should plan, that I should remember to include literacy, or any emails changing any preplanned events. The school was ready for the inspection. Not because everything it does is for Ofsted but because it would seem that the way it is run fulfils Ofsted’s ‘good’ criteria.

I was observed. I hated it of course. My style of teaching doesn’t fit observations but I think it was OK. However after the observation I didn’t have a member of SLT chasing after me with a clipboard asking me how it went (so they could add it to their spreadsheet to try and calculate the overall % of good lessons or even worse use it against me in the future). In fact no-one seemed bothered at all.

So is it because my school behaves this way that it is ‘good’? By definition if leaders are running around the school chasing after teachers is it probably struggling to improve? If you know your school, trust your staff and aren’t just ‘crossing your fingers’ on the day, does this probably equate to a decent school?

Can inspectors pick up on this? They must ‘feel’ the difference. The problem is that judgements cannot be made on feelings. (However I do have a strong belief that staff questionnaires should be made compulsory as they can provide solid evidence of school ethos)

I spoke with a couple of inspectors in different contexts. My experience was very different to previous inspections. It was all positive. Could it be possible that some inspectors are so depressed by what they’re seeing in 3/4 schools that their tone reflects this? Or was it positive because what is happening in the school overall positive? The reality is it must be tough for a team who can quite clearly see a school is a 4, into day two.

I know that Mike Cladingbowl in his previous role was beginning to change things. Was this inspection a result of a more positive, developed inspection process?
I’ve heard him say on more than one occasion that overall the inspection teams ‘get it right’. I agree with him. So where they don’t get it right, how many times has it been that they’ve ‘over’ graded?

I would love to know out of all the complaints that’s Ofsted get from schools about inspections what the grade of the school was before and after the inspection. I’m guessing that in very few cases complaints were made where:

* the grade went up
* the grade was Outstanding

It is natural to want to protect something we work hard for but do some leaders lack the ability to stand aside and see their school as it really is? Do leaders have the experience outside their own school to even realise how ‘good’ or ‘not so good’ their school is?

I’ve heard and read vociferous complaints about inspectors and inspections where schools have struggled. Can you point me to an article where the school has done better but is seriously unhappy with the inspection?

Is the 3/4 judgement too much for some people to take and are more ready to complain about the process?

As a result of all this, I believe that so much more needs to be done with schools that are 3/4. I personally do not agree however that core inspection should be different for different schools. It’s the level of intervention in between that should be different.

I see Sean Harford has proposed a new system of follow up inspections to start to try and quality assure judgements. Maybe I’m naive but I really can’t see there being many discrepancies. From more recent experience working in a 3/4 school is a completely different experience from a 2/1 school and I would imagine that the difficulty for inspectors lie in differentiating between a 3/4 and a 2/1 and not a 2/3.

So whilst I work in a school that has a label of ‘good’, I can honestly say that the label follows the reality. It’s a great school, run with humane leadership and I’m genuinely pleased to say that no-one has uttered the phrase so far ‘we’re working towards Outstanding’. We’re not. We’re just working on making things better.