This month my column in the Guardian Education looks at Ofsted and the problem of being a teacher trying to meet standards when they seem to be constantly shifting. Writing about Ofsted when you’ve never been a headteacher is a little tricky, as I didn”t want to downplay the nightmares leaders say they go through, but the intention was explaining the classroom teacher experience. Hopefully I achieved that.
However, one line caused some consternation:
Ignoring Ofsted is not an option, and neither should it be.
Some people got upset at me saying this because they think teachers should ignore Ofsted and focus on the students. That’s fair comment, if you think I’m saying teachers should only think about Ofsted, but that was not my original intention. Actually, the original sentence was longer but because the piece goes in the physical paper I am constrained by a word limit so the line was eventually trimmed which maybe meant I sounded more curt than planned. Before cutting, the full sentence read as:
Ignoring Ofsted is not an option, and neither should it be. When you are a pupil stuck in an awful school you would rather have an imperfect system for externally checking teaching quality than not have one at all.
Having studied at a school on the decline we prayed Ofsted would come and see its real light, and I’m grateful that they did. Floating on without inspection is not good for pupils who need someone to see the mess a place is in and stick up for them. This is particularly true in communities where parents are unaware of what should be offered by the school and who don’t have the skills to advocate for better. That’s why I believe ignoring Ofsted is not an option. But I also believe that the scrutiny of teachers that Ofsted undertake must clear, shared widely in advance and contribute to professionalism rather than anxiety. As yet, there is too much of the latter over the former, and with just a little effort it could be sorted. This is not a terminal case.
[NB: I was very grateful to the people who did point this stuff out to me. The only way those columns will stay fresh is if people help me learn about their responses to them].