The call has been made and a whole community jump into action. Professionals continue to act normally in front of the children, but under this calm exterior the feeling of dread and darkness fills their hearts. The thought of the stress and anxiety the will follow makes grown adults verge on the edge of tears. The inspectors are coming.
Firstly, let me set out by saying that I do not have an axe to grind with Ofsted, the Government’s school inspection organisation for England. Quite the contrary. Each time the inspectors have observed me teach I have been assessed as outstanding – the top grade. Yet, like most teachers, when the O-word is mentioned a feeling of dread and insecurity takes over. It shouldn’t be this way.
There is a better way. I understand that it is important to have external visitors visiting the school to improve that school and keep things fresh, but does the current system do this? I propose a more balance relationship with the inspectorate with allows a proper discussion about how to improve the educational opportunities and achievement in a school with ‘inspectors’ who are on the educational front-line. Two of the main criticisms of Ofsted is that they are unaccountable for the decisions they make and that they point out what is wrong about a school or lesson without in depth feedback of ways that they could be made better.
I envisage a system with elements of jury duty and the scientific peer review which selects a group of practising teachers from a range of other schools who form teams which go in and provide fresh eyes and help a school to improve as a ‘critical friend’. The visits could take place for one day per week for a number of weeks, so the teams could get a real feel for a school and so to not disrupt their own classes to much. I believe that teachers, pupils and the school community would much prefer to be helped to improve rather than judged. The teams would observe lessons, the management and the school as a whole and then help tailor CPD needs and offer suggested improvements the systems of the school.
I believe that a ‘report’ is still necessary for the community to know how a school is doing, but the focus needs to be on what will be put in place and development for the future. A ‘statement of intent’ if you will, which outlines areas seen as weaknesses and an outline of how the school intends to tackle them – Similar to a school improvement plan.
Schools deemed to have more need to improve would have more visits than schools deemed to be doing well.
I have never been to a school which didn’t want to improve and schools should continually look over their school wall to find innovative ways of doing things to provide better learning opportunities for their students. Hosting teachers from other schools to help identify areas to improve and create a dialogue between colleagues with similar issues is now becoming increasingly common and it provides some of the best opportunities to improve a school. Ofsted take note.