Following my the post earlier in the week on the fact that Ofsted inspectors seemingly continue to break the rule with impunity, a number of people got in touch with similar tales of woe. It certainly seems that a lot of teachers seem to be experiencing inspectors flouting the very clear instructions in the new April 2014 edition of the Inspection Handbook. Maybe someone should keep some sort of database of these instances? 

I have to say that Mike Cladingbowl, the National Director of Schools seems to be doing his best to combat so-called ‘rogue inspectors and yesterday tweeted this:

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I’d love to know what Mike plans to do with all these complaints…

Anyhow, a reader sent me a particularly harrowing account of the college they work in and its recent inspection. This is especially interesting as it highlights precisely why Ofsted get so few official complaints from schools about their inspection process. If 80% of schools are good or better, very few will see any point about complaining if an inspector has graded a lesson or done something else untoward.

The details have been changed at the request of the author.

I work at an FE College in Greater London. We were inspected in March 2014.

At our last inspection the College got a grade 3. Things have become substantially worse over the years. Discipline is breaking down, management becoming increasingly nasty, bullying is common place, staff are overworked in some areas whilst favoured staff can get away with murder.

We’ve had student on staff assaults, staff on staff assaults and a staff on staff sexual assault. One member of staff had a director try to force her to sign a statement saying she was being bullied by another member of staff in order to have that person fired. Yet when this same woman was in fact assaulted by her line manager, it was covered up. She had made preparations to commit suicide because of the way she was being treated, and it was only my accidental intervention that stopped it.

5 of our students this year have been arrested/convicted for attempted murder/actual murder. There is a gang problem in the College which management refuses to acknowledge. Two of those five personally threatened me in the Common Room this year. One of them joined the College specifically to recruit for gangs, and he recruited this year a young ESOL student who has since been convicted of murder.

I am personally involved in whistleblowing regarding assisting students to cheat at A Level exams, sexual grooming of students and racism towards students. The latter two instances, the member of staff concerned has had previous complaints about.

My wife works at the College and is a lead IV. She is withdrawing as lead IV in protest at the fraudulent activities being carried out in relation to the BTEC. Her department has had 7 managers in 18 months. The most competent manager was sacked at 3.30pm on the last day of term before the Easter break. Despite promises that her classes would be covered, a PGCE student is taking the classes, for no pay.

I say all these things purely to give you an idea of how dysfunctional the College is, and how miserable staff are.

The staff expected our Ofsted grade to be a 3, and many hoped for a 4.

We were graded 2, and our leadership and management was a grade 1. Many of us cannot understand how this can be.

We started the year in chaos, with no student knowing when and where they were supposed to be doing functional skills, we still have some classes where they have never had functional skills maths. I was asked to help create a class that didn’t exist in order to fool Ofsted.

I attempted to bring my concerns to Ofsted twice, but was intercepted each time by senior management.

The Ofsted team were placed in our administration building, on the same corridor as our Principal and Vice Principals, with signs on the door saying “Ofsted Inspectors – Do Not Disturb”. Hardly inviting and open for staff to speak to them.

Staff and student interaction was carefully managed. For instance, student voice is my area in the College. Neither myself nor my line manager were invited to the meeting with an Inspector purely on this subject.

We had been told (but nothing in writing) prior to the inspection that saying anything negative to the inspectors was gross misconduct. During our Mocksted, one member of staff was almost fired for saying that he didn’t believe we lived up to our E&D obligations, as the homophobic abuse he received from students was not addressed.

I managed to pass a letter to an inspector for the lead inspector, and received a phone call from him on the Thursday to discuss my concerns. He confirmed to me that an anonymous staff survey should have gone out, just as there had been one for students. I was told this was the responsibility of our Vice Principal. No such survey ever went out, and so staff were robbed of the one opportunity to speak openly. All other interactions were carefully stage-managed.

The Vice Principal has done her best to shut down A Levels, shut down the Student Union, and sent a provocative email out to all staff about UCU members on the evening before industrial action, which stated that upcoming redundancies at the college would be our fault for demanding an above inflation pay rise.

We do not understand how Ofsted came to the conclusions they did. This is a college which lost £1million through mismanagement, yet has a Principal happy to throw out £6000 worth of brand new library furniture because it “does not fit the colour scheme”. A Principal who wants to get rid of the books from the library (especially the fiction books) because “there are electronic textbooks”, all while saying we need to improve our literacy rates.

I don’t know if Ofsted were incompetent or corrupt, but some members of staff are only half-jokingly talking about bribery.

With their grade 1, management feel invulnerable. We cannot challenge them despite ‘open door’ policies, inclusive ‘visions & values’ and a ‘commitment to openness’. They are Outstanding, so they know best.

I handed in my request for voluntary redundancy the day the result was announced. Their response to my wife raising problems with our integrity as a College was to ask her if she wanted to leave now, and they’d pay her three months salary and an enhanced redundancy package.

We are an awful, awful College, with miserable staff, unhappy students, terrible attendance and punctuality, and success and pass rates that have the whiff of fraud about them.

Sorry for the long rant, but many of us had our hopes pinned on Ofsted to save us by putting the College into special measures, instead incompetence has been rewarded.

Now, I have no idea of truth of these allegations and no idea whether the inspection team did a fair or reasonable job in inspecting this college. I’m also aware that Matthew Coffey, Ofsted’s National Director for FE has unhelpfully contradicted the guidance for schools’ inspections stating that inspectors will continue to grade lessons in FE settings. But if any of these claims are even slightly true, they are surely worth investigating. Certainly they seem far more worrying than the comparatively trivial accusations levelled against several schools in Birmingham recently. To my mind, this is exactly the sort of scenario that seems to warrant a Section 8 inspection.