Better inspection for all
Better inspection for all

Better inspection for all

I think most educators remember that “really” moment, when they were learnt that feedback with grades is pretty pointless. It confirmed what we have seen over and over again in our classrooms. Back in 2010 I wrote “Grade Less. Assess More.” It was the start of my professional interest in assessment and feedback. In 2011 I wrote, “grades negate any effort spent on writing comments,” within a year I had markedly changed my practice.

Now I sometime catch myself thinking, all that effort invested in writing an inspection report and most readers do not get further than the grade summary. It is not even at the back on the report. That said, beyond our Ofsted grade, “we” The Academy have benefitted from a very supportive, knowledgeable and challenging inspector. Working hard to improve our school,regardless of the grade, even in spite of the grade. Knowing that the reality is, an improved, published and celebrated “good” grade would change our school.

Danger – cliff edge moving out to sea

An improved and contracted and profession represented workforce. A new Common Inspection Framework (consistency, coherence and comparability the drivers here). An Framework and handbook updated annually, the first to be published this summer term.

Further proposals, shorter inspections for maintained schools, academies and further education and skills providers judged “good” at their last full inspection. Why base the level of support on a four point scale (no really a four point scale either) when there such a rich source of information in the report?

Possible the major change is that schools and academies judged “good” at their last section 5 inspection will no longer be automatically subject to a full inspection every three to five years. Rather they will usually receive a short inspection that will take place approximately every three years. That makes more sense and better use of the inspection feedback.

Get you curriculum in shape. The report notes that the consultation supported Ofsted’s intention to report on the curriculum under the effectiveness of leadership and management judgement. It would been hard to have ignored the curriculum in recent months, GCSE, GCE reform, Progress and Attainment 8.

Schools happy to peer over the edge away.

Almost 85% of schools believed that the inspection process had helped them to improve and yet I still believe that the process should have been more collegiate and less cliff-like. More about the report and less about the grade. While I appreciate the acceptance that Ofsted did not always get it right, how often did this occur? Nor do I accept that this was inevitable with 7,000 school inspections. Would it be inevitable with if it were 5,000 inspections? 3,000? Teachers working lives would have been markedly impacted by an unrepresentative grade.

I recognise the fact that bringing inspectors in-house, with a drive for greater profession representation, will bring more opportunity to improve quality through training and quality assurance. I also recognise that being a part of an inspection team represents a powerful Professional Development opportunity for the teacher-inspectator and their home-schools. A step towards  improvement and a step back from inspection.

Back tracking, Ofsted professionally, and teachers, deserve better than inevitable. As for the cliff edge, I think you will have to decide where that is for your school. Contentiously, would there be a cliff if we didn’t have graded reports? I am not being overtly provocative or naïve, remove the graded report, at least then more school invested, Ofsted aware, parents and carers, would read the report and make an informed decision of where to send their children based on a broad review of the school, the achievement of its pupils (97% of the time the same as the quality of teaching) and its capacity to be better. The judgement would be the time frame until re-inspectation and the degree of support provided.

Every school needs to improve, not because they are not good, but because they can be even better.

A blatant theft of intellectual common sense from Dylan Wiliam replacing “teacher” with “school.”


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