We're nearing the end of Let's Kick Ofsted week, so here's another selection of colourful and concise comments from the Guardian's Comment Is Free pages.
23 Nov 2009, 1:38PM
It's about time this ridiculous regime was seen for what it is. It's anecdotal evidence, but I bet it's easily repeated all over the country. Ofsted go into schools having already decided which schools have failed.
My friend was deemed inadequate because two 10 year old boys decided they wanted the same ruler for a few seconds (bickering politely in whispers so the class was not disturbed!). They sorted it out amongst themselves (one decided to use another ruler) and did not interrupt the lesson. In fact, they finished all their work as directed and worked hard. The teacher was at the other end of the classroom and hadn't noticed as all equipment had been provided to groups before the lesson. The Inspector focused on this as the only incident of the teacher not having control of the class. She was failed despite the whole class working hard and there being no other incident in the lesson. Ofsted are just unaccountable bullies.
23 Nov 2009, 1:43PM
What more can one expect from a government obsessed with spin, news management and tomorrow's headlines.
Almost every time I sit down to my boiled egg and open the newspaper, I read of a new education initiative. Perhaps this Government now thinks that it is part of the media and, like newspapers, needs to come up with a new headline every day.
Isn't it time that the whole quangocracy was booted out and a system devised that leaves education to teachers and parents? It must be freed once and for all from the pernicious machinations of Labour's Ministry of Social Engineering.
23 Nov 2009, 1:50PM
HMI was once a serious and respected organisation. The process of politicising its replacement OFSTED began with the Tories and the pompous idiot Woodenhead, but its now made worse by the ludicrous stretch of its role to include social work with children. Yet another self inflicted bullet in the foot of a government of which teachers and social workers once had some hope. Tragic.
23 Nov 2009, 1:55PM
So our benevolent bully government have invented yet another bloated, centralised bullying check box system which has actually turned out to be a total waste of money, a demoralising episode for workers who are already underpaid and overworked...........well there's a surprise.
23 Nov 2009, 2:11PM
Measuring, Targets, Performance
Have destroyed every facet of public service with this ridiculous obsession with measuring the unmeasurable. They reward cheating and exploitation and force people not to see fit what to do with what is presented in front of them, but are forced to act in ways to achieve imaginary points.
23 Nov 2009, 2:49PM
This appalling organisation should have been scrapped long ago. The voice used for propagating so called "best practice" as devised by the morons in government and relayed down the line by fools who cannot stand up in a class without falling over their monopoly flags of truth.
For too many tears we have lived with these talentless meglomaniacs inspiring an education system based on targets, form filling, one size fits all pedagogy and a wealth of exams which measure nothing.
23 Nov 2009, 3:19PM
Sickening, but all too bloody predictable, seeing tories blame Labour for Ofsted. It was a tory creation, developed to get rid of local democratic accountability that we used to have under the Local Education Authorities. It has always been weilded as a politcal tool to hammer the education system. The whole idea was corrupted from the start. Like league tables there was always a dual aim behind the policy - to rank schools and to allocate funding on that basis. We need to seperate these two things since, quite obviously, in any rational world not dominated by the interests of the richest, funding should go to the schools that need help most, not take money away because a school happens to have a greater than average number of poor students, and thus a greater than average need in educational terms.
Instead of abolishing this unfair, arbitrary and undemocratic setup New Labour not only continued it but retained that elitist Chris Woodhead - a man who hates public eduction as a concept, it seems - as its head. Another pathetic Blairite triangulation that lost them support in one of their real heartlands - the teaching profession and won 0 tory voters to new labour (tories don't care about education, only making it more class biased).
Let's go back to local democratic control of education again and have a good school in every neighbourhood as our aim, and end the poisonous involvement of rich and fundamentalist zealots in education.
23 Nov 2009, 3:29PM
I am a Secondary school teacher in London.
I lost my faith in Ofsted, finally, the day it came in and awarded the school in which I work an "excellent curriculum" - this is a school where the curriculum has narrowed so much that pupils can drop Art/History/Languages at the age of thirteen and where Work-Related Learning/ and various BTEC courses rule all. I've spoken with kids who cannot even recall conducting an actual experiment in a Science lesson - to give you some idea - they just watch video recordings of them.
Ofsted is guilty of many things, but it is the watering down of subject choices in pursuit of League Table glory which is destroying meaningful education. Just as long as kids get GCSE grade Cs in English and Maths - that's all that matters.
People would weep if they knew what was going on. Happily for those who
perpetuate this culture, the average parent is quite easy to hoodwink.
23 Nov 2009, 4:53PM
I know a school in Solihull that has been wrecked by a Headteacher who's only concern was passing OFSTEDs. The kids are out of control, the best teachers have deserted her mad regime, and all that matters in this school is pulling the wool over the eyes of the OFSTED inspectors which she has managed to do three times.
I suspect there are many schools just like this one.
Many new Heads have been selected by Authorities because on interview they convince Local Authority inspectors, and the ignorant mass of school governors, that they have the wherewithall to get the school through OFSTEDs.
Now wonder education is in such a bloody mess!
23 Nov 2009, 5:01PM
1 Ofsted was created by Ken Clarke
2 They used to be led by highly trained Registered Inspectors with a long history of successful teaching 3 Inspections used to comprise a team of 4-16 in a school for 3-5 full days
4 All aspects, subjects and teachers were inspected.
5 A Parents' summary and value for money statement was given in the report.
1 1/2 inspectors are in for 1/2 days
2 Inspectors have very little experience in inspecting all aspects of the school
3 Few lessons are observed and only a small sample of teachers, thus their experience is diminished and thus their expertise
4 No value for money statement is provided in the report which is about two pages long.
I personally challenged the judgements of an Ofsted inspection in 2007 (350 children inspected by 1 inspector in 1 day). It took over a year to prove my case through the use of Freedom of Information Act (I was a Registered inspector for 15 years and retired in 2004 disgusted at the new regime). Finally, the Adjudicator agreed with me that the inspection was poor and the school should be reinspected. I am still waiting for the re-inspection and parents have been duped now for two years.
23 Nov 2009, 5:04PM
I have been a primary school teacher in various roles for 17 years. The curriculum is geared towards passing SATS and OFSTED. The children are suffering, the curriculum is not child centred. We are not educating chilren, we are schooling them. It is an educational abuse of childrens minds.
23 Nov 2009, 8:33PM
I know a primary school that came very near the top of its local LEA league table--in terms of value added--this year that has been put into special measures. The head, advisors and other heads in the borough were astounded. And even the inspectors were embarrassed saying that the new regime leaves them with no option.
The new inspection regime brought in by Balls is grossly unjust because the weighting given to value added has been vastly reduced. And as the article states, schools cannot be rated good if they have low exam results--no matter how much valued they have added.
Schools in sink estate areas where exam results tend to be low are now in an impossible situation. No matter much they succeed in pushing up value added, they can, and are, being put into special measures if test results are low. This has created an immense morale crisis.
23 Nov 2009, 8:59PM
OFSTED inspectors are draconian torture for teachers, students and any kind of residual ethos of free-thinking within education.
I have a tendency to waffle but where these people are concerned, after watching them maul my school and its mostly wonderful staff to pieces, it is very simple:
Go away - and never, ever return.
23 Nov 2009, 8:59PM
I have been a teacher for 26 years. I have been through many HMI and Ofsted inspections. My main gripe with Ofsted is the lack of constructive feedback to individuals. I have never had any useful or helpful comment from an inspector. So the exercise is NOT about making teachers better.
It does not help schools identify weaknesses, any decent school will know this already.
The new style inspections are even worse. Ofsted visit the school for TWO days (inspections ARE expensive, so lets cut the number of days and get the school to do loads of the paperwork in advance!), how can they possibly get an accurate impression in that time? Some comments above about how schools can 'put on a show' for the inspectors, papering over the cracks are spot on.
23 Nov 2009, 11:23PM
The greatest disservice to education was the removal of HMI through the introduction of Ofsted.
HMI had credibility and above all a sense of wisdom that left schools feeling valued. School improvement was presented within a positive framework. Schools were encouraged to develop and were supported.
Professionally if there were enough bravery amongst out leadership teams in our schools we could bring this system to its knees . . .
24 Nov 2009, 9:03AM
"I'm sorry if this is going to upset some people but as a parent I'm glad Ofsted is out there inspecting, because there's no one else doing it."
With respect, Realistic, you've missed the point of most of the comments above. It's not that teachers or parents don't want inspections - it's that they want inspections that are helpful, evidence-based, and conducted by experts, not driven by box-ticking and hoop jumping, and that actually contribute in a meaningful way to children's welfare. As did HMI in its day.
I'm a parent too, as well as a school governor, and I can assure you that Ofsted inspections for the most part have precisely the opposite effect to what is intended - not because teachers and schools don't want to be inspected, but because inspections are ludicrously bureaucratic, look at the wrong things, and are clearly driven by political expediency rather than by any real desire to improve children's education and safety.
24 Nov 2009, 1:10PM
In response to Realistic Parent . . . Finland disproves your argument. One of the best education systems in the world without an overbearing inspectorate, league tables or testing.
25 Nov 2009, 10:32AM
I have a wife and daughter both teachers and both being made painfully aware by their LAs that their looming Ofsted inspections are likely to downgrade them from their ratings at previous inspections, or worse, put them in special measures purely on the basis of "failing to safeguard children" . Stories abound of schools being put straight into special measures on day 1 of inspections, regardless of how good they are educationally. This purely on one persons subjective view on one aspect of the school's performance. I know of another school where a manager at a meeting of the management team said they had never known such a tense depressed atmosphere pervading the whole team, purely because of this issue. For teachers striving to do their utmost in difficult schools often with very challenging children, this is one more piece of stress they don't need.
Now of course no-one is suggesting children should be anything but safe, but have our schools suddenly become such dark and dangerous places? Of course not. So why is this witch hunt happening? Well this is the organisation who gave Haringey childcare dept a favourable report just after Baby P died and for which they were roundly criticised. Ofsted are just symptomatic of our blame culture society and are now ensuring they cover their own backsides, but at what cost? Demoralised and stressed heads and teachers distracted from their real job of educating our children, with Schools reluctant to do anything that smacks of risk or innovation.
Recruitment of Primary Heads is already in crisis, soon it will be a job nobody wants with consequent impact on standards.
I agree with pretty much all I read above- I'm a primary teacher in a school in a very deprived area. we got ofsteded in June under the old system and had some character who probably hadn't been in front of a class come in and "observe" me for 20 minutes before making his judgement. I declined his offer for feedback, much to his surprise but what did he really know either about me and my teaching, the children, or in fact about teaching per se?
So the new system takes no account of local deprivation etc etc etc this being seen by the bloated irrelevance as "excuses" or a slacker's charter.. well, we may as well give up now- I know that for most of the children in my school "learning" and "personalised learning" and "excellence and enjoyment" and all the other little aphorisms churned out by ed balls and his chums are way down the hierarchy of needs- a good square meal, a wash and not getting verbally abused at home (or worse) come way before that.
It's high time professionals in education grew a pair and just refused to co-operate with the irrelevant, punitive self serving industry of "inspection". C'mon the revolution starts here!