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System Change, Uncategorized

Ofsted “Inadequate” – the emblem of our toxic system

I’ve made the case time and time again that Ofsted Grading is a disaster.  For example in this post: Five Reasons to Ditch Ofsted Grades

I’ve also made the case time and time again that our current accountability culture is excessive with very significant negative consequences for schools, leaders, teachers, children.. and by association, parents – and the country as a whole.

For example:

I’m not alone.  From small fry individual commentators like me up to huge influential bodies like NAHT, the case has been been made to Ofsted that their grading system is at the heart of an accountability culture that is pushing us to the brink.

We have a teacher recruitment crisis.  It’s real.  We have a dearth of people seeking out leadership roles and many serving Heads thinking of leaving.  It’s a real issue.   Recent TES articles like this one – https://www.tes.com/news/not-good-enough-words-i-cant-stop-hearing – have highlighted the personal fall-out from our current system.  SLT behaviours around the country are still far too top-down heavy-handed in too many places and these behaviours are a direct response to the very real excessive pressure those leaders feel they are under.

And yet, despite the strong case made from numerous quarters, Ofsted has published this cringe-inducing justification of their current position.  Read it and weep:

The argument seems to be: We know it does harm; we know it doesn’t really stack up – but actually enough people seem to like it so we’re keeping it.   And guess what – it aligns with Progress 8 so it can’t be all wrong?  (WTF??)

No mention is made of reliability issues; no attempt is made to reassure us about the confidence we can have in the actual processes.   And no attempt is made to mitigate the negative consequences they acknowledge.  It’s bad but just not as bad as other models.  It’s a paper-thin defence that will impress nobody.

Inadequate => Toxic.

But this is the main issue for me.  Inadequate as a label for schools and the people in them – is part and parcel of the four-grade system and it stinks.  From my point of view – based on my personal experience and the experience of large numbers of other leaders I know –  the fact that our system includes a process of putting schools into Special Measures, labelled Inadequate for all to see, is appalling.  The sign of a deeply rotten system.  The fact that we support institutionalised public humiliation and vilification of this kind is an outrage.  It’s totally f**ked up. FUBAR.

If we are going to keep grades, we have to change the language, the label, the rhetoric and the response to schools who are judged to be Grade 4.  From what I see, where this happens, the schools, their teachers, leaders and students need help. They are vulnerable, struggling.  They need support. Understanding. Solutions. Care. Protection.   But this is the opposite to what they get.

The lead HMI delivers their verdict grim-faced; barely able to make eye contact. They may as well wear a black cap as the Headteacher is ‘sent down’.  This is how it feels:

img_0220

If Ofsted not only keeps the grades but sticks to the language of Inadequate and all that follows, this is what it means:  They think people deserve it.

  • Leaders who are publicly humiliated.  They deserve it.
  • Schools that fail and are vilified in the local press.  They deserve it.
  • Leaders who sign off with stress with chronic mental health issues. They deserve it.
  • Leaders with years of service to give but are left demoralised and beaten. They deserve it.

Teachers who leave the country or the profession because the stress and pressure is all too much. …Wait… The kids deserve it? The parents deserve it?   What then…..?!

I can only imagine the dismissive tones – the sheer contempt that must accompany any readings of blogs like this at Ofsted towers. They are the new Good Guys.  They’re into research and curriculum and go to Saturday conferences and everything.     But if Inadequate stays – it means more than any speech of platitudes. It means they literally explicitly think schools and their leaders deserve what they get.   Parents demand it! Heads on Spikes! We’re just doing our jobs…

An ‘Inadequate’ judgement as a concept is itself way more than inadequate.  It’s an ugly stain on our whole system and until it goes we’ll never solve the major issues of recruitment and retention; we’ll never find the right balance of healthy accountability that keeps standards high but allows people across the whole system to love their work, to thrive – and to feel truly supported when things get tough.

 

 

Discussion

12 thoughts on “Ofsted “Inadequate” – the emblem of our toxic system

  1. Tom is absolutely right. He has given many sound reasons and there are plenty more. The following is from this article.

    https://rogertitcombelearningmatters.wordpress.com/2018/07/10/ofsted-and-outstanding-schools-are-harming-national-educational-attainment/

    I argue that OfSTED is having a negative effect on national education standards OfSTED, like HMI that preceded it is the national inspector and regulator of schools. Before the 1988 Education Reform Act, HMI, which was independent of government, inspected schools and LEAs to ensure high standards of teaching and learning. Where problems were found HMI would act to ensure that appropriate action was taken to restore standards to the uniform high level that parents and public expect in all our schools. This would be done in co-operation with LEAs, which could ‘move on’ ineffective headteachers and provide additional support and advice to the school. LEAs employed large teams of experienced ‘inspector/advisors’ who were almost always experienced former teachers/heads of department. There was never any question of ‘closing schools’ or seeking to undermine the long term confidence of parents in them.

    OfSTED, on the other hand, is completely different. It accepts the marketisation model that underpins the 1988 Act and is the ‘enforcer’ of government education policy. The ideological basis of the model is that a ‘free market’ in schools that forces them to compete with each other is the best way of raising standards. So the government publishes SATs and GCSE ‘performance data’ for schools to drive local School League Tables to encourage parents to choose the ‘best’ schools and avoid the ‘worst’.

    As a further ‘twist of the screw’ OfSTED introduced its four grade, inadequate to outstanding’ system of judging schools. The assumption was that failing schools must be a consequence of failing to apply market philosophy to their running, so the solution is to close such schools, so forcing parents to send their children to ‘better’ ones, or have the schools taken over by more ‘market aware’ Academies and Multi Academy Trusts (MATs)’

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by rogertitcombe | May 5, 2019, 3:34 pm
  2. Tim,

    I usually love reading your posts; I find them thought provoking and a good prompt for some professionally challenging inner dialogue. However, having inherited a very, very broken school I do feel that ‘inadequate’ is an appropriate word in some instances. Although a word alone cannot not solve our problems or it certainly does not help us overcome our challenges and barriers…

    I came to my school, 10 months after an inspection that placed them in SM and in that 10 months the school had become even more broken. I’ve now been at my school for 18 months now; our reputation (and financial security) is now improving as a result of a really strong focus on improving provision in EYFS. As these cohorts progress throughout the school I hope I can retain some of my amazing staff so we can build on this progress. However, some of these amazing staff are also struggling to deal with such a wide range of attainment in their current classes due to the legacies of the past.

    We had our inspection in November 2016, have not yet academised and are therefore likely to be reinspected any day now. We’ve only had two monitoring visits from HMI in all this time i.e. for over two years. We also have a leaking roof that needs to be replaced as a matter of urgency (as of August 2018, but has still not been replaced).

    Just to complete the picture our composition is 82% EAL; only 14% are entitled to PPG (because most of our children are new arrivals to the UK and therefore are not yet entitled to FSM etc). Having said that I know that my profile of provision/teaching is not strong enough yet and am dealing with a number capability/conduct issues too.

    Clearly, an ‘inadequate’ grading is not the answer and does not bring the necessary support and an absence of monitoring visits do not bring the leverage that is needed either. However, what does/could work for schools like mine?

    Marie

    Like

    Posted by Marie | May 5, 2019, 6:16 pm
  3. We are not the only ones trying to weather the storm of corporate meddling in education and negotiate with politicians and officials that care so little for how they roll over school communities where, as you point out, care and support are required. This blog by Nancy Bailey in the US came just after I got around to reading this, your latest, blog. You may find it interesting.
    https://nancyebailey.com/2019/05/05/diane-ravitchs-education-wisdom-and-wit-is-critical-at-this-time/?unapproved=366397&moderation-hash=5faffe1794f208c0997b1b405fcc2d33#comment-366397

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by John Mountford | May 5, 2019, 7:38 pm
  4. I’ve learnt the hard way that no role is worth sacrificing my health for. I now avoid applying to roles in inner city schools. Anywhere where there is a high percentage of students on free school meals and anywhere where a significant number of students do not have English as their first language. It is near impossible for my school (middle-class Home Counties commuter town) to get RI.

    Liked by 2 people

    Posted by Health Comes First | May 6, 2019, 7:27 am
  5. I wonder how many teachers reading this have ever gone to work in an ‘Inadequate’ school by choice?

    Like

    Posted by @TeacherToolkit | May 6, 2019, 11:51 am
    • Some have – and some Heads too – but they’re a very rare breed. The perverse logic of making the hardest schools to run even harder to run. ?}%*#*?

      Like

      Posted by Tom Sherrington | May 6, 2019, 11:54 am
      • Unfortunately the crazy OfSTED school grading system was also adopted by the Care Quality Commission for its inspections of acute hospitals and maternity units. The ideological source of this thinking is the same. NHS Foundation Trusts were set up to compete with each other for patients, the assumption being that ‘inadequate’ ones would be allowed to ‘go out of business’.

        The whole idea is plainly madness. When the ambulance turns up to extricate you from a car crash the ambulance driver might tell you, “Your nearest ‘inadequate’ A & E has gone out of business, but don’t worry, because there is an ‘outstanding’ one 30 miles away – sorry if you die in the ambulance on the way”.

        The same logic, or lack of it, applies to schools. If a school or hospital is providing a sub-standard service it obviously must be fixed as a matter of urgency. The only acceptable grade is ‘good’. ‘Outstanding’ is not necessary either. The duty of outstanding hospitals and schools is to feed their good practice into the NHS/LEA (as was and must be resurrected). Failure to adopt this obvious culture leaves parents unable to have confidence in their nearest school and patients in their nearest hospital, which is completely unacceptable. These excellent and efficient systems created by the post 1945 Labour government worked well and were only changed because of government hatred of their socialist underpinning.

        Liked by 1 person

        Posted by rogertitcombe | May 6, 2019, 12:39 pm
  6. My god Tom Heads on stakes !!!! Gory
    but directly to the point – my highly
    attenuated visual cortex was flashing
    This image until the small hours -with
    my head eyes bulging

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Trevor Colluney | May 6, 2019, 11:32 pm
  7. Tom, when I think where many of us started with blogging and Twitter, for me back in 2012, and the issues that have been covered in ed policy, we always seem to end up with accountability as the elephant in the room. In a private system money talks and a poor reputation can close a school rapidly. A state system is clearly different and far more complex. I thought Ofsted provided clarity to parents. I found that you only really get it speaking to people in the know e.g. headteachers, some governors, some teachers. Our politicians deal in soundbites not rational thinking and Ofsted grading is ideal for them. Remove them both from the state education system and solve a host of problems.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Nick von Behr | May 7, 2019, 5:33 pm
  8. In response to what Roger Titcombe says about CQC… this is the same organisation that graded Winterbourne View as “good” when those in the unit were being abused by staff. They then accused the owners of lying to them when the BBC presented the evidence – as if they didn’t have eyes in their own heads.

    The black joke went around for a while that CQC stood for “Can’t Quite Cope”.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by James | May 13, 2019, 8:54 pm

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