Ofsted bites back: ‘Take a long, hard look in the mirror’

The TES is reporting that, in an article written for its magazine, Sir Michael Wilshaw says criticism of Ofsted has been “overdone” and used by schools “as a way of deflecting attention away from underperformance and failure”…

…In today’s TES, Sir Michael admits that examples of “poor practice” have been found, adding that “a number” of externally contracted lead inspectors have been demoted for this reason.

However, he writes: “I believe criticism of Ofsted has been overdone and has been used as a way of deflecting attention away from underperformance and failure. Too often, the charge of inconsistency has become a Pavlovian response to unfavourable inspection outcomes.”

He adds: “I appreciate how hard it is to see colleagues who give so much to the school judged coolly by strangers who inspect for a couple of days and find them less than perfect. Teachers work with passion. Inspectors have to deal in detachment. It can make for an uncomfortable cultural fit.

“But that doesn’t mean the default position should be to condemn the judgement given – or the person delivering it. Too often people find it easier to shoot the messenger than to take a long, hard look in the mirror.”

Sir Michael calls on leaders of good and outstanding schools to sign up as inspectors on a full- or part-time basis, in order to help the profession “take more ownership” of inspection…

Read the full comment piece in the 28 November edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents…

More at: Ofsted bites back: ‘Take a long, hard look in the mirror’


Does Sir Michael make a valid point here? Are schools too ready to blame Ofsted after unfavourable inspection outcomes? Please give us your feedback in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Policy.


  1. PartTimePilgrim

    SchoolsImprove Wilshaw criticises schools for using criticism to deflect “attention away from underperformance & failure” #Irony

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove I’m sure there’s a little truth in what he says but complaints are so frequent that perhaps he should take his own advice

  3. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Presumably this style of management (blaming everyone else for everything) has been central to SMW’s career

  4. TW

    Ofsted was eventually forced to grudgingly admit that criticism of it was justified but now everyone should pretend everything’s fine?  Perhaps poor old Mike is feeling bullied?  How sad.

  5. Johnthe14th

    SchoolsImprove (1) Predictable reaction from Ofstednews (blame the teachers). The problem is not so much the Inspectors, but the new….

  6. Johnthe14th

    SchoolsImprove (2)…school Standards – which are divisive. Ofsted is too compliant. They should tell Gov’t to stay out of the classroom.

  7. Janet2

    Judging a school in a couple of days – that’s the problem.  When Ofsted started inspections they spent a whole week in a school and wrote a report about every subject.  These were detailed and constructive even when critical.

    Now they’re shorter, hone in on a few areas (eg phonics, GCSE results) which change in significance depending on circumstances (social, cultural and moral education is the latest flavour of the month).

  8. Janet2

    But what if the messenger delivers too different messages within a short period of time?  At Downhills school, for example, Ofsted said Downhills (in special measures) was improving in a monitoring inspection.  Its results had risen and were now above the benchmark. But Gove said it was still ‘failing’.  The same lead inspector returned for a full inspection and reversed her previous judgement about improvement.  All in a couple of months.

    And there are sudden reversals – one Norfolk schools dropped from good to special measures in just 8 months.


  9. inspirechild

    SchoolsImprove maybe it is not blaming ofsted it is about the inconsistency of inspections. Who is in charge of quality control?

  10. tonyjclay

    SchoolsImprove “Too often people find it easier to shoot the messenger” – Which can sometimes be a highly appropriate response.

  11. ddubdrahcir

    inspirechild SchoolsImprove who polices the police? Ofsted should work with teachers, for teachers, not undermining the profession.

  12. BoHetherington

    SchoolsImprove the blame is levelled at an outmoded inspection system. Ofsted need a radical overhaul. Teachers deal with moving goalposts.

  13. inspirechild

    ddubdrahcir SchoolsImprove imagine a profession where headteachers flick a coin to guess an Ofsted outcome. Life is a lottery.

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