The Ofsted report - Part I: "Why don't you wear a helmet?"  A great metaphor for our inspection?

The Ofsted report – Part I: "Why don't you wear a helmet?" A great metaphor for our inspection?

As I cycled home, a driver pulled out of a side-road directly in front of me.  Until I see evidence to the contrary, I assume all drivers are drunk, stupid or short-sighted, so her move came as no surprise and I braked in good time.  When I caught up with her at the next mini-roundabout, she said she hadn’t seen me – an open road, a flashing light and a luminous yellow top having proved insufficient – and drove off.  As I shouted “An apology would be nice” after her, a jogger rounded a corner and called out, “Why don’t you wear a helmet?”  It was the end of the second day of our Ofsted inspection; something connected in the part of my brain which files anecdotes for blogs: this is a great metaphor for our inspection.

Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

The jogger knew nothing about me – had no idea of my cycling experience or safety record.  She hadn’t seen the driver’s dangerous, illegal manouevre.  Her credentials and expertise were unclear, as she appeared from nowhere to dispense unsolicited advice.  Hers was a snap judgment based on a single data point, barely-related to the journey as a whole; using this, she reached instinctively for a simplistic and ill-thought-through solution – then disappeared into the night.

While my teaching career has never been free of Ofsted’s shadow, its impact on me has been limited.  Unti February, I had never been inspected.  My first four years were spent at a school which had been graded Outstanding soon before my arrival.  Ofsted were always ‘about to arrive;’ they never did.  While I’ve borne my share of demoralising setbacks and ill-thought-through policies, I’ve been relatively free to learn and improve, this independence curtailed neither by inspectors themselves nor managements entirely in thrall to their dictates.  This blog has no posts tagged ‘Ofsted:’ partly because I have nothing to add to Andrew Old’s impressive chronicling of their work; also because I write about improving teaching – an endeavour in which Ofsted’s role is unclear to me. Having now been inspected, it seems worth recording what happened.  This isn’t meant to be a polemic: my chief aim is to add to the literature on being inspected; a literature which I have found useful.  I struggle to understand a good deal of what happened and the experience has raised a number of questions for me about school inspections.  I am not at all qualified to explore them and I’m not trying to refight the inspection.  As with everything I write, it reflects only my own opinions, and discusses events which I have either seen myself or been told by colleagues.

The inspection write up:
The  Part II discusses my experience of inspection as a teacher and middle leader.
Part III considers the accuracy of the report for the school more broadly.
Part IV raises five questions which inspection has left me with.
Part V looks at what happened after the Inspection.

The Ofsted report can be found here.  The school’s response is here.
For another source on the school, you could consider the school’s Parent View (one highlight is that, as of today, 97% of parents would recommend the school to another parent).

It may also be of interest to read the thoughts of some previous visitors to the school, Laura McInerney in the Guardian, Bagehot  in the Economist and Roger Scruton in The Spectator.

A note on comments
Any comments referring to cycling and helmets will be deleted, because:

1) Helmets are of dubious effectiveness – although the best Cochrane Review argues they are useful, it studies individuals who already have head injuries from cycling accidents – there is good evidence that cyclists with helmets are more likely to fall within this sample.
2) The helmet debate is a distraction – time spent discussing whether cyclists should wear helmets is time that could better be spent discussing how we can design roads to ensure cyclists aren’t in the path of fast-moving motor vehicles (see here).
3) This is a blog about teaching. Comments on the free schools policy may fall on dicey ground too – if I am not writing as a formal representative of the school, how much more true that I am not seeking to defend this policy.