I am advocating a change to the current Ofsted inspection regime because I believe that it is unnecessarily stressful and unhelpful.
The main source of stress comes from not knowing when an Ofsted inspection is going to happen. (My last school was inspected in January 2007 and as a result were expecting to be inspected in January 2010. Staff were under stress from September 2009, but when the inspectors did not arrive in January, the stress did not go away, it just built up; expecting the ‘call’ each day. Even now at the end of the year they are still stressed and will not be able to relax fully over the summer break in anticipation of an inspection next year!)
My suggestion is that inspections should become annual events along the lines of the professional review process which most teachers have embraced and find useful. If inspection were a regular, annual event, there would be no stress about expecting the ‘call’. Everybody could focus on the job of teaching, knowing that the inspectors would be in during July (or whenever).
The inspections should at least be lead by the same inspector from year to year (This would avoid the situation at my last school of the team not knowing that it is a ‘split site’ school, separated by 4.6 miles of rolling Essex countryside!). More importantly it would enable a real dialogue to be entered into. Currently there is insufficient time for inspectors to watch whole lessons or to give appropriate and useful feedback to teachers. If the same inspector came back regularly they would know what had been missed last time and what needs to be seen this time; to check on the progress of a new initiative or to revisit a teacher who was struggling last time etc.. It would also further the spread of good practice as Ofsted inspectors cover the whole of the country, unlike SIPs who tend to be more local. Imagine a useful conversation between an inspector and a head of curriculum trying to innovate; ‘I was in ? a few weeks ago. They were introducing something similar. Would you like me to share their contact details with you?’ In this way the best ideas would spread quickly throughout the country.
My background is that I am an ‘ex’ vice principal of a large and successful Technology College. I took early retirement at 56 two years ago because I could not face the introduction of another ill thought out initiative (Curriculum 2008 and Diplomas). I took a term to recover from 34 years of teaching and am now working for my LA as a School Attendance Improvement Officer. A useful and meaningful job, but not really what I was trained for, nor what I was good at. If there had been opportunities for secondments or sabbaticals available at the time, I would have returned refreshed and ready for my last 9 years in teaching. Perhaps such initiatives as sabbaticals should be reintroduced in order to keep experienced and senior staff in schools, particularly in the face of expected shortages in the next few years.
Why does this idea matter?
This is important because I do not believe that in 36 years involvement in education that I have ever met a teacher who did not come into the profession determined to do all they could for the children and young people in their charge. Yet the Ofsted regime treats teachers as if they cannot be trusted at all and need to be intimidated into doing a half decent job. As a result of Ofsted inspections good teachers have left the profession and some have even been so stressed that they have committed suicide. Please do not let that continue to happen.
Good teachers are absolutely essential for the future of our country (and the world). Please consider changing the Ofsted regime to encourage and support teachers as they continue to try to do a difficult job well.