The Ofsted Debate | @srcav

cavStephen Cavadino is a maths teacher (and fanatic) from Leeds. He is a member of the Labour party. You can read of his musings on maths, teaching and life at cavmaths.wordpress.com . When he isn’t teaching; writing about, or doing maths he spends the majority of his time with his family, watching rugby (both codes) and playing guitar.

I watched with jealousy yesterday as my twitter timeline filled with tweets that included #Michaela. For those unaware, the hashtag was related to an event at Michaela school where educationalist and teachers were debating big issues in education. It was an event I’d have loved to be at. All the debates were quite interesting but the one that has me thinking the most was the one around the abolition of Ofsted.

This is an issue I’ve seen discussed many times, (including in the green party manifesto) and I can see where arguments on both sides come from. So much so, in fact, that I actually feel the debate is being framed wrong.

We need a regulator

This is a strong theme used by all who argue against abolition. And it is certainly one that I’d full of merit. But I don’t think it stands up in the debate. I would seriously worry if we had schools which were unregulated and entirely left to their own devices, but that doesn’t mean I agree with the current model.

Ofsted makes SLT spend their time doing nonsense things to please them

This is a strange argument that I’ve seen phrased in a variety of ways over the years, but it’s not entirely accurate. Yesterday I saw it tweeted like this:

Screenshot_2015-11-22-09-56-17

Katherine Birbalsingh (@Miss_Snuffy) was tweeting out what many perceive to be true, but as John (@johntomsett) replied, it’s not true. We’ve seen time and time again that Ofsted have spoken out against many of the practices that go on in their name (see the recent pens debacle here and here, my hatred for the word “Outstandingthis response to a guardian secret teacher and these misguided schools), so it’s wrong to keep using it to argue against them.

So what is your problem with Ofsted?

It’s the culture it engenders. The 1-4 grading system is for me, ridiculous. It seems to attempt to boil down how good a school is into a tick box exercise. It doesn’t account for the complexities each school has, it promotes game playing and encourages teaching to the test, rather than for understanding. It means certain groups of children are deemed more important because they fall around a threshold grade and they receive more help, more money, more time and more resources and that is not fair.

So what would you replace it with?

I’d like to see a system where grades were replace with a two tier system, a “fine” and a “you need urgent help to improve.”

I feel all schools can improve, and the reports should be constructive and developmental,  highlighting the strengths each school has and areas in which they need to improve.  This could lead to greater collaboration between schools as the all try to help each other move forward.

Those schools deemed to need urgent help shouldn’t be stigmatised in the way schools in special measures can be. They should receive help to get them back on track. No school has made a concious decision to fail it’s students, some have just lost their way.

We should all be working together,  with a common goal of giving all young people the best possible start. And the regulatory body should be enabling that, not ranking schools in accordance to some criteria that doesn’t even take the full picture into account.

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