There are two reports in the media this week that we feel we should to draw to our readers’ attention. Both of them refer to Ofsted, and both outline some of the concerns that the teaching profession has about the new criteria for the inspection of schools and the capability and consistency of Ofsted inspectors.
The commentaries bring to light some serious concerns that Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, has said he will look into. The articles highlight the great concern about the increase in the number of schools that are categorised as ‘failing’ since the introduction of the new inspection framework. There has been a 50% increase in the number of schools failing their inspections since January 2012, and with this an increase in the number of schools that are contesting the judgements made.
Sir Michael Wilshaw has gone on record to say that he wants a tougher inspection regime, but currently the regime appears to be penalising even the schools that have adhered to the so-called standards agenda.
Of course we should all be concerned about improvements in education, but we should also be extremely mindful that the wellbeing of children consists of far more than what has been taught and what is achieved academically. In order to ensure that inspections are carried out fairly and objectively, we need consistency and understanding about what is being inspected and by whom. Having an inspector that specialises in behaviour and safeguarding, as quoted in the Guardian article, inspecting an English department in spite of never having taught in such a setting is not entirely fair.
With such a huge increase in the number of failing schools and schools given a ‘notice to improve’, there must be a flaw in the system. Good schools do not turn into bad schools overnight, especially if the management of the school and the mobility of staff is secure, capable and willing to progress. It is the goalposts that have changed, and having inspectors perform their job without appropriate experience is exacerbating the problem further.
Furthermore, we are deeply concerned about the impact the label “failing” has on the children and young people within a school. Sometimes schools are the only places that children find a trusted adult in their lives. Reading that their trusted adults are allegedly incompetent does nothing for the wellbeing of the pupils, let alone that of the staff of the school.
If a school is truly failing, then of course it has to be managed and changed. The wellbeing, including educational achievement, of pupils is vital. However if the failure is down to a flawed system then this should be addressed at the earliest opportunity before we have a mass exodus from the profession.