Opinion: Ofsted Ditches Inspectors I Oxford Open Learning

Opinion: Ofsted Ditches Inspectors

1200 inspectors are being let go after Ofsted decided that they were not good enough to judge standards reliably. Some of these inspectors were sacked because they wrote poor reports due to having poor writing skills. These 1200 inspectors from contractors employed by Ofsted represent 40% of the contracted total. Apparently, according to Sir Robin Bosher, director of quality and training, Ofsted could not sack these people directly until they had changed the inspection framework. They must have made a poor agreement between themselves and these contractors if it limited their ability to sack people. Surely they could have sacked the contractors themselves before now if it proved they were not up to the job?

So how long have inspection teams been going out there carrying out inadequate inspections? Sir Robin Bosher was asked this question by Eddie Mayer on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on 19th June, but he avoided answering. He was asked, ‘how long would you say these inspectors have been working to an inadequate standard?’ The question was put several times, and with other questions, such as how the parents of children at schools where these inspectors worked should feel or respond to this news.

After avoiding all these attempts by Mayer to get an answer, Bosher was then asked, ‘would you give a pass to a pupil who persistently failed to answer a question?’ No surprise that this was not answered either. Sir Robin wriggled and evaded and said things like ‘that’s not the point,’ and that the reports produced by these inspectors and the grading given were OK to stand without change.

Neil Carmichael, a Conservative MP who is on a government education committee, is ‘not worried about previous reports,’ although he expressed concerns about consistency in report writing! This makes no sense. He wants ‘Ofsted improved so that they can get a handle on what is a good school.’ What does he think Ofsted have been doing all these years if their knowledge of this is that poor?

Sir Robin Bosher wants to raise the standard of inspection, one of the aims of which is to produce consistency of performance and quality of inspection. Yet, when you listen to these people like him and Neil Carmichael making decisions like these, and talking about them like this, you cannot help but question their suitability for their jobs. As director of quality since 2014, I do not mind Sir Robin deciding that a better framework is required, nor do I mind him sacking inspectors, although he could have approached things in a better way. What I do mind is he and Carmichael either pretending that previous reports are OK or avoiding the logic presented by Eddie Mayer of calling the quality of previous reports into question. You cannot say that the work they did was fundamentally poor in some way and then make out that what they did can still stand as being OK, or, as Sir Robin mostly did, avoid the issue. This lacks intellectual credibility and honesty.

Sir Robin and his ilk make a fundamental mistake in the way that they start these new jobs. They cannot help making radical changes and headlines, even though this brings controversy. Their egos seem to require them to be seen to make big changes as if it is what they have to do to feel good and justify their jobs. Slower, more subtle changes that do not grab headlines but will also not leave them squirming in interviews would be better. Unfortunately, this attitude of making small changes to more gradually improve the system does not seem to be an option with these people, and it must lead to problems; they must now quickly find about 1200 better inspectors for instance. Otherwise schools will go longer without being inspected.

I do agree that it should be an improvement having all inspectors in house rather than contracted out, but Sir Robin intends to grade every inspector after every visit. This is no way to make someone feel good about themselves or their job. It is the same soul-destroying approach that a majority of teachers have suffered for years. Perhaps this is part of the reason we have a growing recruitment and retention crisis. People need support and they need good training to help them maintain their best work standard and to feel good about it. I wonder if people like Sir Robin will ever realise the damage done by their stressful and intimidating approaches. Sadly, I do not think they will.

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Andrew Bateson is 57 years old and initially trained as a Geologist. He has been a secondary school teacher for 22 years teaching Chemistry and Science to 11 to 18 year olds. Previously he worked in the Ceramic industry in research and development and then management. He has experience of both the independent and state sectors, teaching in single sex and mixed sex schools. As a Union Rep., he followed educational policy closely throughout his teaching career. He has retired from teaching to continue working with OOL and to retrain as a Psychotherapist.

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