Graham Lancaster, Ofsted inspector and Area Improvement Manager for the Essex Primary Heads Association, “hit out” at the new Ofsted regime, reports the TES
. The inspector said, “The bar has been raised and it is really focused on pupil achievement as it never has been before. There has been more flexibility for inspectors in the past, I think, to take account of context, to take account of current data.” He expressed concern about the number of Essex schools that had gone from good to inadequate saying, “I don’t believe that schools have got worse since January.”
Mr Lancaster commented that “lack of trust [in teachers]” and “the continuing raising of the bar” triggered damaging headlines and was contributing to plummeting morale of teachers. “Nothing is ever good enough, it would appear.”
Since the new Ofsted framework began the percentage of schools judged inadequate has risen from 6% of schools inspected in 2011 to 13% in the first five months of 2012. Some of these judgements are disputed: Caistor Yarborough Academy, Lincolnshire has formally complained to Ofsted
about its inspection and Sinfin Community School, Derby, is considering the same step
. Downhills School, Haringey, was judged to be failing only months after a previous Ofsted inspection reported that the school was improving thanks to support from the local authority and a “core of experienced senior staff with high levels of expertise”. Now, thanks to the rushed second inspection, the head of this team of experienced staff has resigned, his career and health ruined. Both the Downhills inspections
had the same lead inspector, Kekshan Salaria. Quite how she was able to overturn her previous judgement so quickly is unclear but such rapid reversals bring Ofsted into disrepute.
It is ever more difficult to regard Ofsted as an impartial inspectorate dedicated to supporting school improvement. It is increasingly being viewed as an arm of the Department for Education especially now that Michael Gove’s favourite, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has become Chief Inspector of Schools. Sir Michael is on record as saying that a sign of low staff morale is a sign that he is doing his job well.
The NAHT voiced concerns about Ofsted
at its recent conference. So did other teacher unions. But it seems that it’s not only teachers who distrust Ofsted – Graham Lancaster can’t be the only inspector with misgivings. Perhaps it’s time for teachers and concerned inspectors to call time on Ofsted.