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Ofsted - a force for good or bad?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Kandahar, Jun 29, 2020 at 11:19 AM.


Should Ofsted be disbanded or retained?

  1. Ofsted benefits children and teachers - it should be retained

    3 vote(s)
  2. Ofsted is harmful to both children and teachers - it should be disbanded

    21 vote(s)
  1. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    This thread was inspired by the good Friar on another thread - for which I owe him my thanks.

    As someone who has taught free from Ofsted for nearly 30 years (in England), and then endured sinister changes since Ofsted's inception in 1992, which include seeing excellent colleagues endure appalling bullying as a direct result, mental break downs and worse, I was this morning completely amazed that anyone (except some senior management or academy related business staff) might consider Ofsted a body fit to overlook state educataion. Naturally, I might well be wrong. Ofsted might have turned a corner, seen the errors of their ways, and now be supportive in the way that HMI were pre-1992.

    Observations welcome - and please cast your vote.
  2. circuskevin

    circuskevin Established commenter

    I took my circus workshop to a special school a few years ago. I had already done another site of the same school a week earlier.

    At break time I was explaining the benefits of the school getting some of the equipment I use for their pupils to the deputy head.

    She listened for a while. She then said they had just had an inspection and found that "Ofsted inspectors do not understand autism". She seemed to be telling me the teachers could do as they liked so long as the paperwork was in order.

  3. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Hmm, let me think. A Poll on whether Ofsted is beneficial or harmful. On an anonymous discussion forum for teachers. I wonder which way the voting will go?
  4. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    He didn't say he'd been inspecting ASD Special Schools did he? [Your post referred to a special school]

    It would be surprising if none of the inspectors of an ASD special school had experience of autism, and justify a complaint to Ofsted IMO.

    But in a mainstream school, with only 2 or 3 inspectors in a team nowadays, I wouldn't expect every team to include an autism expert. Would you?
    chelsea2 and bombaysapphire like this.
  5. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    If you don't mind me saying so, @Kandahar, the binary nature of the question is a bit simplistic and silly.

    Yes, I think schools need a regulator, as do all public services. Since 2013 I think Ofsted have listened and learned and changed and become much better at asking the right questions of the right people.

    Its former tendency to want to micromanage teaching styles etc., and to give summative judgements on individual lessons, was unhelpful and wrong. It got a lot wrong over the years, but you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, and a flawed regulator is better than no regulator.

    No public service should be allowed to just crack on in its own sweet way without anyone checking that it's doing its job. Without Ofsted, the number of safeguarding lapses alone which would've gone unnoticed doesn't bear thinking about.

    I think nowadays when teachers moan about Ofsted, what they're really doing is moaning about their stupid SLTs' over-zealous misinterpretation of the inspection framework.
    Skeoch, nick909, Wotton and 2 others like this.
  6. circuskevin

    circuskevin Established commenter

    I was repeating what the deputy head told me.

    Most schools have some autistic pupils. I have been to many primary schools up and down the country. The same applies to these schools getting a small amount of the equipment I use for their special needs pupils. I have posted about this in the past and given examples.

  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Not exactly an answer to my question @circuskevin - do you think every Ofsted inspection team in a mainstream school should include an autism expert? (Defining 'expert' any way you wish).
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020 at 11:55 AM
  8. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    I don't mind at all.
    HMI did the job extremely well - at minimal cost to the public purse. Are you young enough to have experienced HMI?
    And how do you think this over-zealous SMT has formed, if not off the back of Ofsted and their continually changing the goal-posts and support of a League Tables led education system.

    Perhaps teachers today are happy to have monthly observations, book scrutinies, and be led by PRP. Possibly I am too long in the tooth, and wrong to think that teaching up until the 1980s was relatively stress free and enjoyable. How ever did we manage with a head master and one deputy?
    LiamD likes this.
  9. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    I haven't worked in a school that does monthly observations and book scrutinies. I've definitely worked in some which go overboard on both, but not to that extent.

    In my current school, book looks are actually really useful - they're just us in the department, and we're not checking each other's marking so much as ensuring we're awarding the right marks to assessments. Marking expectations are reasonable: one assessment and one piece of formative, responded-to marking per half term, which I think is very manageable. The "scrutinies" are just like the coursework moderation of old, but more supportive. Obviously if somebody wasn't marking their books, it'd show up, but I have no problem with that. Mark your bloody books! :D

    Of course I remember the days of being pulled up by some assistant head who was a PE NQT two years ago, because your literacy marking codes stickers weren't on some of your books, but that culture is on the wane now. And yes, it originally came from Ofsted, but that culture is a decade out of date now and I don't think we can blame the Ofsted of a decade ago for the fact that SLT still attracts so many micromanaging mediocrities. Most sensible people don't want the job ;)
    ajrowing likes this.
  10. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter


    I am still left wondering if you ever taught pre-Ofsted. The reason I ask, is that before I retired in the naughties, when I told the NQTs of the time that before the 1990s we were free to teach how we chose (including taking entire classes out), had daily pub lunches, played Bridge in the staff room during frees, and could employ creative methods at involving those pupils who were less academically inclined (an hour digging over the potato patch in the quad for example), they really looked as if I was completely bonkers.

    It's looking like you are right and I was wrong.

    Ofsted is good for both children and teachers!
  11. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    It would be necessary to look at a history of events which proceeded the introduction of Ofsted in order to make a judgement.

    In 1967 the Plowden Report was published. Although focused on Primary schools, the report was widely known for its praising of child-centred approaches to education, stressing that "at the heart of the educational process lies the child".

    However, the theories and practices were more widely adopted and and occasionally hugely distorted. Perhaps the most extreme example of this was in the case of Terry Ellis, the head of the William Tyndale Junior School in Islington (where else :rolleyes:) and his deputy Brian Haddow in 1974-76.

    Ellis instituted a school day with equal numbers of 'closed' (teaching) periods and 'open' (unstructured and uncontrolled) periods when the pupils did What they liked and went where they wished. Ellis responded to parents' concerns that children were being allowed to roam the streets: "What do you expect me to do? Make the school into a concentration camp to keep your children in?"

    Several subjects were not even taught to some pupils, mathematics and reading being two. So many parents withdrew their children that the school roll fell from 230 in 1973 to just 55 in 1976. The local authority, the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) sent a team of inspectors to the school, who were at first forced to teach children themselves since the radical teachers had set up a rival 'strike school' elsewhere.

    There were other schools where radical new theories were introduced (e.g., Summer Hill, with the Head Teacher A S Neill), but most were disastrous. The ILEA endorsed pupil-centred teaching and many 'experimental' schools at the time were in London.

    A parliamentary inquiry was conducted from October 1975 to February 1976 which was critical of all concerned. Ellis, Haddow and five other teachers were dismissed based on it, but the local authority itself was found to have not fulfilled its legal responsibilities.

    So, the door was open for increased central government scrutiny of education and both Ofsted and a national curriculum were instituted.

    My view? Yes, Ofsted IS needed, in the same way that the vehicle NOT is still needed in order to ensure that the education given to the pupils is fit for purpose. However, judgement cutter should be minimised and the judgements themselves reduced to just 'Satisfactory' and 'Unsatisfactory'.

    The main problem with Ofsted so far has been the influence of the personal whom of the Chief Inspector (particularly Wilshaw). By far the best IMO was David Bell.
    nick909, ajrowing and FriarLawrence like this.
  12. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    I didn’t teach before Ofsted, no. I qualified in 2004. But that list doesn’t sound terribly good to me, I’m afraid!

    On the “potato patch” thing - I definitely think we’ve lost a step in terms of practical and creative learning, but the part that worries me is “less academically inclined.” That sounds like a recipe for quite a lot of kids falling through the expectations net, to me. I wonder how many of the initially truculent and semi-literate kids I’ve taught in my time, who’ve flowered in year 10 or 11 and ended up taking my subject to A Level and beyond, might’ve been digging potatoes rather than literally leaping up from their desks in joy because they’ve just written a couple of paragraphs of genuinely insightful, erudite literary analysis for the first time at the age of 14 or 15. I’ve known so many kids who thought they hated English, or were thick (and had teachers who would’ve enthusiastically agreed with that assessment) who have grown into learning at quite a late stage.

    Academic achievement isn’t for everyone but I don’t think having high expectations and giving every child at least an opportunity to become academic at least until they’re 16 is such a bad thing. 16 is so young. And we get kids wrong, or they turn out to be late bloomers, so so often.
    ajrowing and Sally006 like this.
  13. WB

    WB Lead commenter

    I do believe some sort of external check on schools is a fundamentally good idea. Parents having some information that helps them see what's going on in schools is also good.

    Ofsted inspectors themselves have nearly always (in been experience) been decent people.

    The issue is the standards they use to judge us. I don't feel the standards I'm expected to teach at are sustainable in the long or even medium term.

    If we were judged against still high, but achievable and sustainable targets, them I would feel less inclined to be critical. Who sets targets - they're the villains that have ended the careers of good teachers.
    ajrowing, FriarLawrence and nomad like this.
  14. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    The 2 are intertwined (notice Mr Nomad's reference to A.s.Neill). Why force those pupils who just will not listen or stand still to endure hours on end of increasingly academic-based learning (which comprehensives have become)? I had some boys working on small carpenting jobs during some of my geography lessons - they still listened. It was this simple ability to improvise and professionally judge what was right or wrong for you and your pupils that teachers have lost today.
    Well, just think how many of those pupils of yours might have gone on to feel ready to take A levels had they had the opportunity to dig the veg patch - instead of ending up in isolation all day and all week in some cases.
  15. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    I went to a fully open plan primary school where we did what we liked. Lady Plowden came to visit. We didn't learn as much as we might have in the conventional sense but we were very creative and good at problem solving. Anecdotally, we also populated most of the top sets at our comprehensive secondary school... My school was at the absolute cutting edge of educational theory when it opened. Had there been Ofsted at the time it would have been praised to the hilt because it was doing all the things that were fashionable in education at the time. As fashions changed it would have done less well, but even without Ofsted its shortcomings were fairly soon evident and it was converted to a 'normal' school with classrooms after a relatively short time. Ofsted doesn't stop wacky ideas getting a hold, and it isn't needed to recognise poor performance.
    nomad, ajrowing and Kandahar like this.
  16. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    That for me completely sums the matter up.

    Pour the funding Ofsted drains and channel it back into education via the support that HMI provided by corroborating through the LEAs.
  17. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    I started teaching in 1980, and retired in 2014, so experienced no Ofsted - 5 day Ofsted - a variety of 2/3 day Ofsteds and multiple moving goalposts - all in middle / junior / primary schools

    Pre-Ofsted, teaching was a joy. Schemes of work were developed by the school to meet the needs of their pupils. Teachers had autonomy to teach in the way that suited them and their pupils. The job was fun. Children enjoyed school. There was a much wider range of activities than is the current primary diet. There was also the opportunity to achieve amazing depth in areas of real interest.

    BUT, it was also possible for schools to be badly run, no schemes of work, poor teaching, low expectations, etc, etc.

    Whether Ofsted was needed to try to force such schools to improve while being the sledgehammer which also damaged schools which were doing well, I don't know.

    My first (5 day) Ofsted was amazing. Supportive inspectors, who looked in detail at every subject, spoke to all curriculum leaders and didn't seem to have their own agenda. As I was working in a school in a deprived area, it was reassuring that we came out of it well, with a recognition of the importance of the pastoral work we were undertaking.

    In fact, all the inspections I had, whether as a teacher or HT, were OK, in their own way - even to the inspectors accepting that a junior school almost always found value added progress impossible due to over-inflated grades given by feeder infant schools (a problem which primary schools don't face).

    However, do I think Ofsted has been a force for good or bad? I actually think of greater significance was:

    a) the National Curriculum - which meant all schools were teaching the same thing, although not necessarily at the same time, and that continuity and progression became more important. In its first incarnation it was so big and broad that there was no chance of pursuing areas of particular interest. However, it did mean that all subjects were taught, and the profile of some (DT) raised considerably. Subsequent revisions of the NC have wiped out a lot of the improvements it brought.

    b) Testing - once tests were introduced at KS1, KS2 and KS3, Ofsted became increasingly obsessed with using the dubious data generated by results to judge (and even pre-judge) schools. Nothing else seemed to matter, and all sorts of conclusions were drawn about how 'good' a school was based on these snapshots. It is the importance placed on these tests which completely skewed the curriculum, has resulted in micro-management, has affected how schools are led and managed - basically has ruined education for teachers and pupils. Not testing itself - but the importance placed on the results.

    Blame that, rather than Ofsted.
  18. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    That's a great post, @chelsea2 - thanks so much for it :) Really informative and measured.
    chelsea2 and WB like this.
  19. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    I agree.

    The DfE and successive Secretaries of State for Education are getting off too lightly in this discussion. Ofsted didn't invent their data obsessions and creativity-killing judgements in a vacuum. They were dancing to the tune of their political masters.
  20. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    And now we have 'teachers' dancing to the tune of massive senior management teams in fear of Ofsted.
    Rott Weiler, WB and nomad like this.

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