We hope we are transparent and honest. I am very keen that the people we inspect have confidence in the quality of our inspections and the quality of our inspectors. I believe the quality of inspection and the quality of our inspectors has gone up over the last few years.

Sir Michael Wilshaw

I’m genuinely of the belief that Ofsted as an organisation is trying hard to put right some of the worst excesses it has been responsible for in its 21 year history. But certain attitudes make the task so much harder.

Consider this from the boss:

We have done more to raise standards in 21 years of existence than any other organisation.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, January 2014

Really? Really!?

If you want to examine this ‘extraordinary claim’ in detail, click here.

In my conversations with Mike Cladingbowl and new National Director for Schools, Sean Harford, I’ve found a real willingness to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and provide clarity and guidance to minimise the likelihood of school leaders frantically trying to deliver ‘what Ofsted want’ in the future. Ofsted really is trying to reinvent itself, but it’s an uphill struggle.

Yesterday I reblogged a post from @cazzbooth where she detailed the fall from grace of ‘Mr Howarth’. The post isn’t about Ofsted but very few teachers can have failed to encounter the warping effects of the ‘child-centred inquisition’ since the Christine Gilbert years. We know, whatever our ideological stripe or teaching preference that inspectors explicitly rooted out and condemned teacher talk, ‘passivity’ and teacher-led lessons. We have suffered at the hands of wave upon wave of consultants who have sought to inculcate us in the ‘preferred Ofsted style’ of group work, independent learning and ‘progress in 20 minutes’. This much is not in doubt. The inspectorate has the power to make or break careers and those who’ve ignored its prescriptions have either been astoundingly brave or uncommonly foolish.

Neither is it in doubt that those teachers who have been unable or unwilling to perform the Monkey dance have suffered for it. Fearful school leaders have whole-heartedly embraced the dogma that a 20 minute performance trumps results. In the past I once witnessed a head og geography explaining their poor results by claiming it was because their lessons were so outstanding! Well, quite.

But the tide has turned. Mike Cladingbowl’s subsidiary guidance and the new Inspection Handbook to be published for September have made it clear that this must all change.

So why on earth do we have HMI like David Brown and Additional Inspectors (and consultants) like Paul Garvey making unhelpful claims like these:

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Now, it’s reasonable to point out that Ofsted are not directly accountable for the decisions of school leaders and David Brown is right to point out that Ofsted are used an excuse when Headteachers need to bulldoze through some cockamamie ‘improvement’. And yes, of course inspectors would never suggest a member of staff be sacked. But fear of running afoul of inspectors’ preferences for child-centred learning is surely behind a great many school policies. I’m not for a moment suggesting this is deliberate, but a sure as night follows day it what happens when an organisation responsible for exposing failure is also given the power to dictate ‘best practice’.

Here’s what I think it would be helpful for any inspector who was employed before Wilshaw’s tenure to say:

1. I’m sorry – I was following what I believed to be best practice and I was wrong.

2. Here is what I am doing to try to improve matters…

Any attempt to defend, excuse or explain away the excess of the past merely serve to tarnish and diminish attempts to improve the system for the future. If you’re not actively part of the solution I’m afraid you’re very much part of the problem.

Oh, and arguments to authority and invoking confirmation bias don’t really help matters either:

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Related posts

This post by Old Andrew covers similar ground: An Example of OFSTED’s Inconsistency
Teacher Talk: the missing link
The shocking mediation of Ofsted criteria by ‘rogue’ inspectors
Still grading lessons? The triumph of experience over hope