When the inspector calls it would be handy if he provided real and tangible feedback to support and improve schools, rather than useless soundbites, so says this week’s Secret Teacher. This is from the Guardian…
…I’m now an employee of an inadequate school that has “serious weaknesses”. On paper it has, at least. And that is just it, it’s only on paper. What does it mean to be inadequate? Does it mean that all of your teachers are inadequate or, more importantly, is it the children that are? Or is it the community?
I can’t for one minute argue with the premise of Ofsted; it is needed to ensure that our children get the best chance they can at school. What I do take issue with are such a narrow range of judgments and the language used to describe each school’s performance.
By schools having only four grades, the grades can become almost meaningless. Some schools dine out on the recognition that one aspect of their work that is outstanding while the rest of their work may require improvement. My school has serious weaknesses, but is judged by the same damning number as one which is in special measures. To the layman, the outcome is the same – we are a failing school.
It is interesting that we spend most of our days as teachers celebrating the can-do approach and avoiding the use of the words such as failing because we know it doesn’t motivate our students. We focus on the what went well to ensure that students stay with us and work with us. If only Ofsted took that approach too.
Imagine a report that focused on what the school does well and only on the final page refers to what could be done better. Imagine a report that doesn’t contain grades to allow the reader to focus on the good things about the work, as opposed to the feeling of failure that comes with being judged as inadequate.
Imagine if inspectors were forced to use 10 positives for every negative they identify. Ofsted judgments seem to have become a marketing tool in a world where we should be focusing on what we do in the classroom, not discussing our next advertising strategy.
I also find it frustrating that the phrases used by Ofsted in its reports are meaningless because they are overused and, at times, lazy. They appear regulated, overworked and tired, suggesting that Ofsted reports are written much like some school reports – using a statement bank. Our report tells us we must differentiate more, increase progress and mark better. Then again, don’t they all? What it doesn’t do is tell us how.
The effect of the judgment on our students has been stark. Working in an urban area, for some of our students, we are the stability, we are home, we are their family. The judgment from Ofsted has hurt them and has hurt us as a teaching staff…
Ofsted has a place, don’t get me wrong, but it’s about time that they provided the real, tangible strategies to improve, instead of soundbites that try to sum up a school in one sentence.
Secret teacher seems to be making too different points: that Ofsted should talk more about the positives and that the feedback should be much more specific in its feedback and recommendations. The later seems unarguable, but do you agree with the former? Please share in the comments or on twitter…