Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Layer 94 Investigating the Inspectors

From today’s Guardian:

MPs yesterday summoned the head of Ofsted to give evidence next week on why the children's services inspectorate failed to spot problems in the London borough where Baby P died after months of persistent injury and neglect.

MPs are perplexed about how Ofsted could give Haringey's children department a rating of "good" a year ago, but find it riddled with managerial defects when inspectors returned in an atmosphere of heightened public anxiety after disclosure of the circumstances of Baby P's death.

In October 2006, a joint review by Ofsted and other inspectorates said Shoesmith "provides strong and dynamic leadership and is supported by many examples of good leadership and management at all levels". In November 2007, Ofsted said: "The council's capacity to improve its services for children and young people is good and its management of these services is good."

Christine Gilbert, the Ofsted chief inspector, will appear before Sheerman's committee next week to explain the change of view.

He said: "The chief inspector says it was down to the data and Haringey not wanting to tell the truth. If inspections are a paper-based exercise ... then no wonder the results are misleading. So far those questions are not answered. We will ask some pretty searching questions of the chief inspector."

One senior employee of Haringey council who works with children said: "There's something wrong with Ofsted. Either one of the two Ofsted assessments was wrong, or they are both wrong."

Well the bloody inspections are indeed a ‘paper-based exercise’ and ‘no wonder the results are misleading’. It’s impossible to overemphasis how much the current Ofsted regime fucks up many schools that are good schools, or at least close to being good schools, and fails to identify places that are positively crap - but able to impress with their test and exam data.

Let us not forget, furthermore, that “attainment” rules - i.e. all the other aspects of schools are deemed to be of no consequence, no matter how good they are, once Ofsted have latched on to negative test data, often very spurious value-added data, and have decided to use it as the basis for a ‘hypothesis’ that a school is a failing school, even before the inspectors have ventured within a hundred miles of the school in question.

So the question now arises - will the children’s select committee determine that this fucked-up Ofsted regime is failing and positively harmful to the education system, given its condemnation of many satisfactory and good schools, and its failure to identify many crappy and failing schools - failing in all or many respects apart from test and exam results.

I’m not holding my breath. But what the hell - at least the commons committee has spotted the issue and acted quickly to investigate it. The point is - it’s obvious that Ofsted has been totally exposed by this case. They’re guilty as hell of labelling Haringey children’s services as ‘good’, whereas proper investigation has revealed they’re complete rubbish - at least the social services part of their operations. The reason for them being rubbish, apparently, ironically, is that they operate more on the basis of ticking boxes on forms than by properly investigating the well-being of children.

Did Shoesmith, an educationalist, bite off more than she could chew when she was promoted to Director of children’s services? Is Gilbert, an educationalist, qualified to preside over an organization that inspects social services and child protection in home settings? How could Ofsted have got things any MORE wrong than in this tragic case? Will Gilbert now admit that the entire modus operandi of Ofsted is misconceived and untenable? Will she hell.

Except that she already has - by admitting that local authorities should be hit by ‘lightning’ (i.e. unannounced) inspections. But will those inspections still focus on data, or will they do something different?

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