I’ve been thinking long and hard about the subject of my first post. There is so much going on in the field of education at the moment it’s difficult to choose: life without levels; British Values; Secondary ready (whatever that might be) but I’ve actual come down to a personal anecdote. A story that is probably being reflected right across the country and I suspect, is doing immeasurable damage to the morale of many a committed professional.
On the way home this evening, I bumped into someone I have a great deal of respect for, but who I haven’t seen for a while. I had, however, heard on the grape vine, that a recent Ofsted inspection carried out at their school hadn’t gone smoothly. The Head, Governors and indeed the LA felt the subsequent report was unsound in some of its findings and that there was a huge discrepancy between the inspector’s judgements and what the data is consistently showing. But that’s not really the issue; the issue for me is the manner in which the inspection was carried out and the attitude of the inspector and her dealings with the staff and governors during her limited time in school.
Describing the experience as “brutal” (the second time in as many months I have heard this word used) as a result of this two day inspection, this colleague has seriously contemplated whether or not to continue in the teaching profession. A very experienced teacher and Head, they know their school inside out, care passionately for the pupils, staff and local community, have great vision for and expectations of their students and plan long and hard to provide a rich and varied curriculum. So what they deserve is basic courtesy; some kind of acknowledgement that any school is a “work in progress” and to be given the opportunity to present their story in a constructive and professional atmosphere.
In another life, I have been on the receiving end of an “unsuccessful” Ofsted, with an inspector who may have already made his mind up before he came into school but who remained courteous, listened to what we had to say, and was ultimately, professional in his dealings with us. It didn’t soften the blow when we went into Special Measures, (there’s a whole other blog here) but, it was a fair judgement and eventually enabled the school to move to a much better place. The following 13 months, the time it took to turn the school round to be judged as “good” were a huge challenge, gruelling in many ways, and not everyone was able to complete the tremendous learning curve – but it would have been a whole lot harder if the staff and governors had been disrespected, demeaned and devalued by the Inspector.
I’m not arguing that schools should not be held accountable for the education they are providing – I think that argument has been done to death, and I understand that Ofsted inspectors need to be rigorous and thorough, but Michael Gove’s much lauded British Values advocate fairness, tolerance and respect. Perhaps Mr Wilshaw, as Head of Ofsted, would like to revisit some of these values with his inspectors, before too many more committed and experienced staff do decide that this is the straw that broke the camel’s back, and leave the profession.