I listen the TES podcast every week and this one really struck a chord with me, entitled “A World without Ofsted”.
(https://www.tes.com/news/tes-fe-podcast-world-without-ofsted). I then saw the Get Reading headline “See how many Reading Schools are performing badly” and couldn’t help but equate the two.
Firstly, this is not to say we are complacent and that the Council, Brighter Futures for Children and all of Reading’s Schools do not seek improvement and realise that in some areas and some schools we need to do better. We have an education strategy launched last month alongside an SEN strategy that seeks improvement in our Schools.
Schools and teachers are quite possibly the most judged places and professions on earth. There is so much data to weigh up and compare. Base lines, SAT tests, GCSE progress 8, A level results and of course Ofsted. I teach at a School whose GCSE results and A-Level results in both attainment and progress have been in the top 5% of the country for the last couple of years and we received an Ofsted in that time. Not many schools get those recently so must have been an Outstanding judgement right? No. A Good due to an anomaly really, despite far better results on any measure compared to many other Schools with an Outstanding rating.
And that’s just one of the problems with Oftsed. Things they don’t really consider: numbers of SEN students. Many of these will make progress at different rates in their own way but Ofsted seem not to care. Exclusions. What if one school gets good results and outcomes but excludes many students that other local schools pick up? Not Ofsteds problem. Starting points, what if students have made great progress from their starting points but still don’t make Ofsteds floor standards? Still “failing” then. Funding. Not a mention in any Ofsted report I have ever read that funding per pupil has fallen 8% since 2010 or SEN funding by 16%. No mention of crowd funding or donations being sought from parents just to keep schools ruining. It’s almost as if Oftsed is an arm of Government and that criticism wouldn’t go down well? Deprivation. Ofsted does not mention or care about the area in which a School resides. Glasgow has a life expectancy about 15 years lower than Kensington, do we blame GP’s for this? No, but with Schools apparently there is no other contributing factor to educational outcomes than a School and its staff.
And then what? Ofsted give its “failing” rating and then provide on going support, expertise, finance and guidance. Well no. They say they will be back to judge again in a year and if an academy put you in contact with the hugely over stretched regional schools commissioner. The success of schools can be judged in many ways, and a good school may show it in many different ways. The best way to see and get a feel for a School as a prospective parent is to always pay a visit. Since becoming lead Councillor for education last summer I’ve visited nearly 40 of Readings schools that have obtained all Oftsed gradings. Each different, each working incredibly hard on diminished budgets and each deserving of greater credit that a two word Oftsed rating. It’s time to look beyond an outdated inspection regime.