Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ofsted part 9: A tough reality of the job.

When there is substantial failure, as there will sometimes be in public services no matter how hard we try, there is always great personal pain which is most effectively dealt with if somebody carries the can by being prepared to lose their job.  When individual inspectors defend their jobs too actively when there has clearly been substantial failure on their watch a regulator loses credibility.

For all sorts of reasons, schools have become overly deferential to the process and conclusions of inspection to the extent where judgements of doubtful validity with potentially very negative consequences are not properly challenged.  We need processes which expect there may be challenges to potentially contentious judgements and plan to allow such challenges to be constructive processes of  growth in understanding for both the school and the inspector.

In essence I am saying here that the recruitment process for the inspectorate should actively seek out those who would not be afraid to leave their jobs should that appear to be the right thing to do.  There are plenty of such people in education and I have known many who have become inspectors.  But sadly they seem too often to rapidly leave inspection and there is little evidence of their presence among those who define policy direction at Ofsted.

Ofsted should only employ people in core roles who can command the personal and professional respect and trust of our most dedicated and able headteachers.  If that trust breaks down and cannot be properly restored within a reasonable time the inspector be removed, preferable of their own volition.  In other words they should be accountable to the very best in education rather than to themselves.

Schools should only employ headteachers who can command the personal and professional respect and trust of their most dedicated and able teachers.  If that trust breaks down and cannot be properly restored within a reasonable time the headteacher should leave and our inspectors should be there to help in that process if necessary.  At present too often it is the case that a school falls to rock bottom at which point the staff and governors organise the removal of the head.  Then Ofsted turn up and hang around for the next couple of years in order to take the credit for the improvement the staff then bring about.

It's not blooming rocket science.  Is is?  Let's strip out all those processes of inspection which protect inspectors who are not up to the job and which are not needed by those who are and replace them with structures used by credible regulators.

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