OFSTED – to change for the better?

Ok, so yesterday I had an idea and quite frankly I am worried – as there seemed to be a notion that it might not be as silly as my usual ideas. This is worrying as it has taken 39 years for this to happen which means I will be 78 before it happens again – a big gap.

The question was about incentives to support schools who “Require improvement” – I love this euphemism. I once had a personal trainer if he told me my technique at what ever thing I wasn’t very good at required improvement I saw it as positive- in so much as he would help me get better. Sadly if a school requires improvement that collegiate nature of support and optimism is sadly lacking.

What isn’t lacking is scrutiny and now an assigned HMI (A professional inspector – one whose role is to inspect) supports the school. In this hot house environment a hero is needed (so the popular narrative runs) to help the school out of this purgatory- there being a shortage of such willing Lone Rangers gave rise to Sean’s question.

My suggestion was this – train all Headteachers with over five years experience as HMI – this would then remove the need for professional inspectors- instead you would have professionals who inspected.This would cover all colleagues, not just those in a certain category of school – the perverse notion that only colleagues in a certain category of school have ideas worth listening to seems absurd. 

Create an “Inspection duty” in which heads (in the first instance) are expected to support inspections within  a certain geographical range. The funding for this could come from the reduction of professional inspectors. 

Now we come to trust – inspecting schools has come to be seen in the same light as cheating athletes- we have to catch them at it! If we accept that everyone, everywhere could improve at something then let’s treat inspection in this vein. Tell schools when their next inspection will be as their last one finishes – and have the expectation that the team, not simply an inspector will stay in touch with the school – sharing practice and perhaps colleagues with school inspected. 

But what about all those professional inspectors? We need some but not too many and nowhere near the number we have. Often they are committed professionals who want to change things for the better – Mike Cladingbowl a good case in point. So let them return to schools and enrich from within.

My answer to Sean’s question is in effect not to answer it specifically but to answer it more generally and to use the inspection framework as a stimulus for peer support. Will it work? Well here’s the thing said the king – let’s give it a try.

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