October 2017

The know zone

  • Diversity in focus
    Anna Cole highlights the latest initiatives on equality and diversity at ASCL and in the wider sector. More
  • Where's the money?
    New 16-19 money is apparently on its way but will schools see any of it? Kevin Gilmartin examines government post-16 funding pledges. More
  • To pay or not to pay?
    Sara Ford explains the real implications of the STRB's recommendations on teacher pay. More
  • Let's talk about SATs
    Last year's Key Stage 2 SATs results generated more questions than they answered. One year on, has the dust settled? Julie McCulloch takes a look. More
  • We need to talk...
    How do you teach personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) at your school? What approaches do you take? What topics do you focus on? Is your school teaching PSHE in an innovative way? Here ASCL members have their say... More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Take back control
    Former school leader Ross Morrison McGill said that during his time as a leader, he experienced eight Ofsted inspections under various frameworks and goalposts. Yet, he says, one factor has always remained consistent in each of them: anxiety. More
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Former school leader Ross Morrison McGill said that during his time as a leader, he experienced eight Ofsted inspections under various frameworks and goalposts. Yet, he says, one factor has always remained consistent in each of them: anxiety.

Take back control

However hard we deny it, get a good nightís sleep and have every document Ďunder the suní printed and ready to Ďshoveí under an inspection teamís nose, we will always feel anxious about visitors coming into our schools to judge us. Itís only human nature, especially if this puts our careers at risk. And, no matter how hard we pretend that Ofsted is here to drive school improvement, I suspect that in its current form it is broken and creating far more reasons for teachers to leave the profession, than actually to join and improve it.

Ofsted guidance insists that schools, leaders and their teachers should not produce unnecessary evidence and documentation for school inspections. However, I also suspect this is largely not true for all of us. Letís take the summer examinations, for example. Every headteacher will want the best for their students, but after the initial Ďresults dayí distribution of data, detailed examination analysis will begin with many headteachers starting to contemplate

  • a: if they will still have a job and then
  • b: how their data will fare against other schools, and how this will be measured by the inspectorate.

As schools move into October, despite Ofsted insisting that schools no longer have to write a 60-page self-evaluation document, schools will be frantically evaluating their work, producing reams and reams of evidence to put their best foot forward.

Vexatious fixation

Despite my experience and support for the fact that Ofsted has tried to alleviate workload and dispel myths, the evidence is clearly not good enough. Inspectors are still asking for documentation not routinely used by the school and still also generating an immense amount of workload for these institutions.

Inspectors are still fixated on written feedback, and its frequency, trumping verbal feedback that is immediate and effective. This deluded approach fails to reduce teacher-workload and will continue to drive good teachers away from the profession.

As leadersí length of service increases, agreement that Ofsted acts as a reliable and trusted source, or a force of improvement decreases. I wonder why this is the case. Are we long in the tooth, or wiser? For me, the reasons for people leaving so early on in their teaching career is because we celebrate the machine that measures us. Letís stop producing unnecessary documentation and challenge inspectors when they ask for it. Letís stop covering our school gates and letterheads with Ofsted banners; instead, pull them down and put in their place quotes from your staff, students and parents to celebrate the work you want to celebrate.

With a rising population of students and a decreasing number of teachers, what do we have to do in the next five years? The answer is simple: letís get started with a peer-to-peer inspection framework sooner rather than later, and letís stop all this messing about.


Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If youíd like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.


Ross Morrison McGill
Managing Director at TeacherToolkit Ltd
www.TeacherToolkit.co.uk
@TeacherToolkit

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