Primary School, mixed socially, ethnically, and by ability, huge parental involvement, staff turnover generally low, 85% Sats level 4 and above, some level 6....sound like a failing school?

Katherine Laweson's picture
Our school, a place where children are supported no matter what their background or needs, (and some are very complex) was put in Special Measures earlier in the year and is now facing forced academy status. We have a very short time to make a decision and can get very few answers to our many questions frorm the DfE consultant. Apart from a dismal Ofsted report we are NOT a failing school.
Any suggestions/experiences welcome!
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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 28/09/2012 - 22:19

you are not alone
I'm so, so sorry this is happening to you.

It's really, really hard to know what to say to you because these situations being a really complicated dynamic where nobody wants to talk about the problems because doing so brings the school bad publicity which has consequences for all the people.

sarah dodds's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 06:50

I am not sure where you are based, but there is an excellent campaign in Birmingham called Ask Parents First, which was started for schools in exactly this position. They have their own website and facebook page - I strongly suggest contacting them for advice.

alasdairsmith's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 12:21

We are fighting several identical campaigns at the moment. We have materials that you can adapt. Please contact us on 07904296701 or email me

Nicki's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 14:00

Just wondered, does this post refer to Chapel End Junior School in East London?

Nicki's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 14:07

Just want to say, if this does apply to Chapel End, I am one of the parents who supports the school being transformed into an academy and I also support the new head. There were plenty of problems with the school before: a head teacher who had lost the hearts and minds of the parents, bullying in the school playground, special needs of children not being met, literacy and numeracy levels not being achieved. I know there is a band of very loud parents who are against the academy status, but they need to listen to other parents who actually don't agree with them.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 16:30

Hi Nicki,

I'm fully supportive of regulator intervention in cases of severe failure which is not being addressed, however special measures is an extremely brutal and counter-productive process which should only be used in very severe circumstances. Clearly as an outsider I have no idea whether it was appropriate for Chapel End.

However I am very experienced with the behaviour of online discussion forums.

Unfortunately there have been incidents in cyberspace before where posts have appeared from new contributors which have been pro-government line and have been bogus. For example on one forum I posted on the reasons why my local secondary school had decided not to become an academy. My post was followed by a post, supposedly from a parent, who wrote that the school had not become an academy because the head was a failing head and people didn't have the confidence that he could lead an academy. The poster had clearly read the school website and gone to extreme lengths to pretend they had been at recent events with the school with their child. I only knew that this was an outrageous lie because I know plenty of parents and staff at the school and I asked them and they told me it was complete bunkum and there were genuinely no concerns about the head - as has proved to be the case going forward. So I asked the forum manager to contact the poster to enquire more (as it was a forum where you had to supply your email address to post) and there was no answer. I found the fact that someone was prepared to defame the head in this way in order to attack people who have very practical reasons to disagree with Gove's policies horrifying.

Given that you've partly identified yourself by giving your first name anyway please would you possibly completely identify yourself so that we can be sure this is not what is going on here? I wouldn't usually ask but hopefully you understand the reasons. I'm happy to supply more details if you doubt I'm telling the truth about my concerns. You can find me through linkedin and see that I am indeed a specialist on discussion forums as I claim through my blog here:

Nicki's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 19:37

Rebecca, I am a parent who is fully in favour of my children's school turning into an academy. There is a group of parents opposed to this and I wish to put the other point of view forward. An excellent headteacher has been put in charge of the school and I support the improvements he is making. Some oppose academies just for the sake of it.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 20:37

What kind of improvements is he making Nicki?

Nicki's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 20:46

The old head barely knew me or spoke to me and the other day this new head actually came up to me, introduced himself and shook my hand. That may not seem like much to you but to me it was so important after years of being ignored. He's buying new books for the school, better ones to help the children learn to read and trying to improve relations between the juniors and infants. He`s also improving the numeracy teaching. He has a year to turn the school to good and two years to outstanding. He has my backing anyways.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 21:09

Can you tell us a bit about the kinds of books he's buying and how he's improving numeracy?

I like it that he's talking to you, that's very promising. However I've seen situations where very good heads have become withdrawn and stressed because they are under extreme and inappropriate external threats - such as the threat of special measures no matter what they do. I'm not saying that applies here because I don't know but I've seen it - especially in schools over the last 18 months. I've also seen heads with tremendous charm and the gift of the gab who've had parents eating out of their hands but have been horrifically awful. I'm not saying that's the case here either - I now nothing about the school. But I have personally experience that. I'm not even saying it's necessarily a disaster - if the school is a sink school with a hurrendous reputation such heads can draw in great families who believe them and those kids and families coming to the school can improve things.

In my experience seriously failing schools do not become outstanding in two years and the fact that he's telling you he can take a school with failings so catastrophic it needs to be in special measures and completely transform it in this way worries me a little. But I'm open to hearing other perspectives.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 21:39

One other thing which may help you understand where I'm coming from Nicki is that I do understand and accept that there are still some pockets of the kind of union activity you are referring to - where groups of people have a agenda which they stick to despite reality.

However there's none of that left in most of the country. Up here in Cumbria there's none of it at all and the debate about academy status had been very deep and extremely pragmatic. At a deep level the schools have always operated co-operatively and want to continue to do so. After a lot of detailed consideration and open consultation about whether accepting or rejecting academy status would make much difference it was decided it probably wouldn't make a great deal of difference but that, fundamentally, it was wrong for Cockermouth school to become an academy to enable it to claw back money from the schools their LA slice was redistributed to because it was redistributed for very valid and important reasons. Grabbing a bigger share of the pot of money seemed to be the only reason to become and academy and people didn't want to do that.
Here's some insight:

I do understand that in other areas of the country schools have the opportunity to join successful chains if they become academies and that may be a logical reason for becoming one.

You say the head has your backing and you suggest that the school described in the post as having huge parental involvement may be your school. Can you tell us a bit about how you've been involved in the past and why you feel you've be able to give this head much more backing than you were able to give the old head?

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 09:23

Nicki -

All this shows is that good leadership improves schools. Not the change of status from maintained school to Academy

Nicki's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 21:39

The school was not seriously failing, like the original poster said, it had a bad ofsted at the beginning of the year and a head who was not liked by many parents. There was very bad bullying in the playground, which was not being dealt with and lots of parents quietly removed their children. These issues can be dealt with quickly. The school was put into special measures because the headteacher and governors were failing, not the school. Having a dynamic new head might to some seem a risk, but it's way better than doing nothing.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 29/09/2012 - 23:49

The school is rated inadequate on everything Nicki.
Calling Ofsted in and getting schools rated inadequate on everything is a strategy which has been used for political reasons this year.

I saw it happen at a school near here. There were some children who were being bullied there but the staff knew precisely who they were and why they were being bullied. Sometimes it's not possible to sort everything out immediately. Schools dealing with substantial challenges need support from outside services. In your case if your school is now part of a high quality academy chain it might now get some of this support which has clearly been lacking. I hope so. But it sounds to me like those who supported the old head may have very genuine causes for concern regarding what has happened. It would be wise not to see them as being militant idealists but to be aware that probably they are people who had genuine respect for what went before at the school for very real reasons. They may well have included some of the parents who were in the school a lot giving practical support. If this is the case then it's clearly important to try to bring them onside to help to build the future.

It is well established that to achieve high standards regulators must be completely independent of government. Regulators should not be a tool to be used by politicians to force their own agendas through. We live in a democracy not a totalitarian state.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 09:17


None of your arguments supporting Academy status prove becoming an Academy will automatically improve a schoo. As you say, it is good leadership and governance which helps to improve schools, as well as resources. Many LA schools in the past have improved without changing their status.

I don't think the original poster has confirmed whether her school is the one you have "outed". You mention here about bullying and other failures of your school but do you realise that as Acadmies opt out of local authority stewardship, parents' right to take complaints about the school to the LA is also removed? These problems are not dealt with directly by the DfE - how and when can they possibly have the time to look into something which is most effectively dealt with at a local level?

It is not true that Academies deal better with vulnerable children. Mossbourne Academy, the government's flagship academy, has lost a legal challenge over its refusal to admit a number of children with special educational needs. And many Academies, including Mossbourne, are under scrutiny for significant numbers of "managed moves" and "nudgings out". Another Hackney Academy is well known locally for its failure to bring behavioural issues under control, despite - or perhaps of - its suffocating discipline rules.

Katherine Laweson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 09:52

Hi, just added a comment at the end of these- we aren't Chapel End and I think it sounds like we have different issues but I think that changing to an academy is not necessarily going to be the answer!

Nicki's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 07:14

Just one last thing, the old way of electing governors was to get people to volunteer, you'd get a paragraph from them explaining why they'd be a good governor and then - usually you had no idea who these random parents were - then anyone who could be bothered to vote would vote in the next parent governors. If only one person came forward then you wouldn't even have a vote at all. How is that a good way to select people who are going to have power and influence over the school?
It was actually a band of very vocal parents from the school who got rid of the old head because they didn't like her - she wasn't personable. I'm not saying that was a good or bad thing, but it was only a few parents - it wasn't democratic.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 09:22

Nicki -

This is nonsense. Parents voting for govenors IS democratic. Academies have the right to impose a board of governors on a school, whether parents like it or not. Many of these governors are on the payroll of the Academy chains that have been given the contracts to run the school, so they have not been elected by parents and staff of the school at all. Do please explain how this is democratic. And please explain how you better trust governors elected by academy chains at the will of Michael Gove than those elected by the school community.

agov's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 13:47

Indeed so Allan.

Perhaps Nicki could explain the new, improved, exciting way to elect governors.

Even better, perhaps she could explain what she thinks is the better way to 'select' "people who are going to have power and influence over the school!.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 08:42

"the old way of electing governors was to get people to volunteer, you’d get a paragraph from them explaining why they’d be a good governor and then – usually you had no idea who these random parents were – then anyone who could be bothered to vote would vote in the next parent governors. If only one person came forward then you wouldn’t even have a vote at all. How is that a good way to select people who are going to have power and influence over the school?"

Democracy is a terrible form of government. Its only consolation is that it's better than the alternatives.
That's something which I've heard quoted many times.
My personal opinion is that democracy is in a very bad state because we, as a society, tend to take the good and fair administration of society for granted rather than realising that it's something we need to create.

"It was actually a band of very vocal parents from the school who got rid of the old head because they didn’t like her – she wasn’t personable. I’m not saying that was a good or bad thing, but it was only a few parents – it wasn’t democratic."
These situations occur. In the early days of Ofsted the old HMI who had come from the previous system had tremendous experience with problem schools and could quite reliably judge whether the complaints of the vocal group in situations like this were significant and needed to be acted on (they used the then estenstive LA networks to help them triangulate situations) or whether the head needed to be strongly endorsed and supported to cope with both the issues they were facing and the objectors (which was often the case).

However modern HMIs and Ofsted inspectors do not have this experience and since Michael Gove demanded that more schools be 'improved' by Ofsted LAs have had to come up with lists of schools which they are 'supporting the improvement of'. This has led to a situation where schools which have any complaint about a school leads to that been labelled as being failing schools by Ofsted whether or not the complaints are justified. What I've seen all to often is that the effect of 'special measures' is not to improve the school but is instead to create a culture where nobody would dream of complaining any more. They put up, they shut up and they cover up reality from a society, a government and an inspectorate which has no ability to properly judge schools working in challenging circumstances.

My heart goes out to all of you involved in this situation Nicki. I would advise you to argue against anyone who holds extreme absolute positions against anyone involved in it and to try to build bridges between the groups which understand that it is quite possible that a serious injustice has been done here due to deeply inappropriate behaviour by an inspectorate body which Michael Gove has deliberately kept completely outside the law so that he can use it as his personal stick to beat schools with (at a time when he could have very easily have given state schools the same balance of rights other schools and most organisations in society have).

My experience shows that if you talk to those who were staunch supporters of the previous system in a sensitive and reasonable way and an attitude of 'we are where we are - please will you work with me to do the best we can possibly do for our kids now', they will.

I would also caution you to look carefully at the new head to ensure that their skills in managing staff match their skills with rhetoric.

Katherine Laweson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 09:36

Hello everyone and thanks for your comments- we aren't Chapel End but it sounds like there are more of us out there!
Mostly things are good in our school with some areas of concern- just like life really! My belief is that efforts should be focussed on improving the weak areas, not throwing out the baby with the bathwater We have concerns for the very good provision for SEN-educational and social- and children who are just generally having difficulties, and we fear we will lose a lot of the really good things in our school if we are forced to become an academy. Staff are very anxious and there are lots of changes. We are really struggling to get any information from the DfE to help inform our decision-making on academy status and are on a very tight time-scale. We have got a good groups of parents working on this, separate to the work our fantastic Governors are doing with DfE. WIll keep you posted!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 10:56

Good luck to you too Katherine - no you are not alone!

One of the most useful things Michael Gove wrote which gives insight into this situation was his 'Cultural Revolution' article where he wrote about how he wanted to lead a 'chairman Mao style great leap forward in education'.

I don't know if anyone else has read any of the autobiographical accounts of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (such as Wild Swans) but I've found the insights they've provided very helpful. It was the dominant feature of the cultural revolution that Mao managed to force everyone to do silly things which wouldn't work (like melt down all their teaspoons to make steel to build national infrastructure) by using his totally unaccountable force - the Red Guard. His newspapers and media ran continuous propaganda that China was full of 'enemies of the state' who the Red Guard had to 'reform' or 'get rid of'. People believed that this was true and if they suspected their neighbours of being 'enemies of the state' they used the many open routes offered to them to report them. When the accused were punished they concluded that they had been right. But in fact there were no proper investigations going on - in general people were just being beaten and those who were capable of questioning the changes being forced through being most likely to be in the firing line.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 14:35

Hi Katharine

Is it Salusbury, by any chance?

If so.... the academy route might be good, given that the LA showed they really hadn't a clue about what wa going on in the school.

Also, much of the teaching does seem to have been pretty dire. One finding - which if it weren't so serious would be comic - was when the Ofsted team reported that though the school was at least using phonics, they were teaching the kids the WRONG sounds.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 11:12

Is anyone surprised that Gove outed himself here as a supporter of a corrupt and totalitarian regime which pretends to listen to the voice of its people and protects it's interests but in reality stifles opposition, imposes its ideology and protects and advances the agenda of those most useful to the party.

Gove is fond of accusing his critics as Trots but I bet he wouldn't relish his party being depicted as Fascists.

His command and interpretation of history is perhaps not as rigorous as his own ideology and regressive outlook would expect. This of course is a trait he shares with Chairman Cameron, whose poor command of British history was mocked after his lamentable appearance on the Letterman show. Not a good example of the alleged excellence of British private schools over state schools. More a demonstration of how good Eton is at educating posh boys beyond their intelligence so they can lord it over the plebs, even those in uniform paid to protect them!

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 14:52

Perhaps those failing Academies that Gove keeps very quiet about might like to consider converting back to maintained status? Oh sorry - Gove has shown himself to be an enemy of choice by virtually taking that option away as well as the democratic choice of remaining under the local authority. Breathtaking hypocrisy.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 15:08

"much of the teaching does seem to have been pretty dire."
It usually does in schools which it has been decided will be put into special measures if you read the Ofsted reports. It's widely known now that in these circumstances Ofsted turn up with an agenda as to how many lessons they're going to grade unsatisfactory and demand the head decides which teacher they go and see to do that. Any head who suggests they don't have sufficient teachers to sacrifice knows they will be for the axe themselves.

They seem to have a tendency to wander round the schools with the kind of superior and condescending attitude you're showing in your post Ricky. Staff have been very shocked that these inspectors seem to show no emotional connection whatsoever with the consequences or their judgements for the individual and the school communities who are unlucky enough to receive them. They've been left wondering if these inspectors have any idea what being judged unsatisfactory does to individuals and schools?

Katherine Laweson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 15:45

Who are you, Ricky Tarr?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 11:26

Allan please don't attack China like that. Communism is not a fundamentally corrupt system. In my opinion it's flawed because it transfers the responsibility for socialism from the individual to the state, but it's main flaw is that like all systems of government it is run and interpreted by people.......

Katherine Laweson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 15:35

Thanks Rebecca, that was certainly our experience and several months on staff (and parents) are still feeling the effects. Teachers who are renowned for excellence and commitment throughout the whole school were deemed satsfactory or worse. I knbow it's the same for everyone but I find it difficult to understand that an inspector can judge a "teacher" on the strength of a 10 minute observation in an interrupted lesson- as my 7-year old said, "I don't understand- [inspectors] come in part way throught the lesson, so how do they know what we are supposed to be learning? How can they tell if it is a good lesson or not?" I have 2 children, one now at secondary and the other still at our "failing" primary- both have been happy and have achieved throughout, and I have always known how they are getting on at school and felt part of the "team". Sometimes inspectors don't see what they are looking at...

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 16:31

They generally can't judge lessons Katharine although shockingly many of them have little awareness of their own limitations. Most teachers don't experience external inspections very often and when they do usually Ofsted don't have a particular agenda so it's all a bit chaotic. People think - oh that didn't seem very sensible -and then they forget about it and get on with their lives.

But if you're part of a strong staff in a school in special measures where you're being externally inspected up to seven times a year you get to a level of experience where you can assess both the experience and the agenda of inspectors by lunchtime on their first day in the school. Their lesson judgements reveal a great deal about both and very little about the teaching observed. Because you're absolutely right - how can it possibly? Apart from the issues you've raised we have the ever purring presence of Schrodinger's cat who is an enigmatic presence in schools where many of the children are more at home at school than are at home.

On the bright side great friendships are made between inspirational people who struggle through these situations. And on the bright side for me my last fall back position - getting involved in politics - has led me to a rich seam of inspirational and wonderful people who are very able and care passionately and selflessly about society.
and all that.....

by the way if you're on please do find me. That goes for any other contributors to this forum too.
In my pic there I'm not wearing glasses, my hair is a bit longer and I'm looking down and to the left.

niamhmunro's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 08:36

Sneering at people for being 'posh boys' and 'toffs' is just as despicable as Andrew Mitchell calling someone a pleb.
I don't think this class war you like to wage does your cause any good.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 12:07

Rebecca -

Just where do I attack China or communism? I criticised totalitarianism. I visit China frequently and its culture, history and society is not defined solely by "communism."

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 30/09/2012 - 13:05

Jolly good Allan. Wouldn't want to unnecessarily offend the people labour sold our country to! :-)

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 09:34

It seems some schools just don't take the hint. These extracts from Salusbury's last two inspections are revealing:

February Inspection:

The school is not satisfactory because teachers’ expectations are often too low and insufficient attention is given to providing work that meets pupils’ individual needs which leads to inadequate achievement. Attainment in English and mathematics has declined since the previous inspection…. Too many pupils do not make sufficient progress.

At the previous inspection the school was asked to increase the rigour of evaluation and planning, but these aspects have not been strengthened. The management of teaching and the performance management of staff have not been effective in improving the quality of provision.
.In 2011, assessment data showed that many pupils were significantly underperforming in English and mathematics by the time they reached the end of Key Stage 2, particularly those of average ability.

Teachers’ marking is usually limited to corrections and telling the pupils how well they have done. Teachers do not check pupils’ work and progress consistently or thoroughly enough, and sometimes mistakes are not corrected. Many pupils do not understand what they have to do to improve. Over a quarter of pupils indicated in their questionnaires that they only sometimes, or never, know how well they are doing at school.

School managers require phonics (letters and the sounds they make) to be taught systematically throughout the school. However, more than one approach was found in the Early Years Foundation Stage and not all staff pronounced the sounds correctly.

July Inspection

A new approach to marking has been introduced throughout the school. Whilst pupils’ books are marked regularly only a minority of the marking gives clear enough direction to pupils’ as to what they need to do in order to improve their work further.
The impact of actions taken to increase attainment in reading is mixed. ….some phonics teaching observed was dull and inaccurate.

The local authority accepts that it did not previously hold an entirely accurate view of the school’s leadership or of the school’s performance.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 10:03

I don't think you understand Ricky.

Ofsted reports are no longer revealing.

In many cases inspectors are arriving with predetermined grade outcomes and searching out phrases they can use which justify the grades they are going to award. They are then ignoring everything else.

I strongly recommend you attend some of the training provided to inspectors at other regulators on good practice in inspection and then go with those trainers and see what they make of Ofsted inspections.

agov's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 10:26

Ofsted inspections are often undertaken by employees of companies that also run academy chains i.e. the very companies that may hope to benefit from schools forced into academy status.

Some might call it corrupt. I call it everyday life in 'modern' England.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 10:33

These ones are revealing in that they somewhat undermine your conspiracy theory.

The criticisms made by the most recent Ofsted inspectors are substantially the same as those made in the previous three inspections. (That's what I meant about the school not taking the hint.)

So the same problems have been diagnosed by Ofsted since at least 2009 (and some going back to 2006). That's under two different governments, three secretaries of state - Alan Johnson, Ed Balls and Michael Gove, and four different HMCI's - Maurice Smith, Miriam Rosen, Christine Gilbert and Michael Wilshaw.

So, not some conspiracy between Gove & Wilshaw really, is it?

Katherine Laweson's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 15:09

My experience of the school has been very different- I have always had clear lines of communication with all staff and have always been kept informed of my children's progress and achievements. Teachers, even those labelled as "unsatisfactory" have always understood my children's capabilities and encouraged them to progress in their learning- and have recognised and valued the learning that isn't tested by SATs or inspected by Ofsted- growing into a good member of society who can work with and care about their peers.
I remember reading the previous report and thinking I did not recognise this as "my" school! This time was not so surprising as it was clear from before the inspection started what the outcome was going to be, as you say Rebecca. I guess if we want a society that only cares about ticking boxes and measuring things that are easy to measure we are going down the right route. Not sure that most of us do want that though.
Ricky, it would be good if you felt able to identify yourself, as if you are involved in the school we could have a proper conversation about it.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 10:44


The largest Ofsted inspection company is Tribal. It does not run an academy chain.
Then there's SERCO. It doesn't run an academy chain either.

Which leaves CfBT..... the only organization that both inspects and runs academies. But it isn't a 'company' in the commercial sense. It's Britain's largest education charity.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 11:22

agov -

It would help if the coalition were not continually being caught out with Ministers lining the pockets of corporations and cronies. Jeremy Hunt/Sky; Gove/Ark Academies. Difficult to argue against conspiracy theories when the Tories have been conspiring and greasing palms from the minute they defaulted into power.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 12:01

It's difficult for people to believe that because of this kind of thing Ricky:

Then there are all the questions in the air regarding why 'no cause for concern - satisfactory' should suddenly become a cause for concern in direct contravention of all good practice in inspection and regulation.

And of course we have the context that Gove carried out a huge inquiry into Ofsted which failed to address any of its key structural issues which have been causing problems for years and has instead chosen to behave in ways which have made them worse.

Then there are the abysmal inspections we've watched in schools we know well where we can be confident of how atrocious the inspection reports are.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 15:43


I guess if we want a society that only cares about ticking boxes and measuring things that are easy to measure we are going down the right route.

Hang on a mo - it wasn't Ofsted, it was you</i), who in the headline to this thread valued the school according to box-ticking criteria such as SATS scores, numbers achieving level 6 and so on.

The inspection reports were not box-ticking at all. Look at the points they raised:

* Classes were boring and didn't stretch, challenge or engage pupils.

* Teachers didn't mark homework properly.

* Teachers were so badly trained they taught the wrong sounds in phonics.

* Teachers didn't allow children to contribute to class discussion.

* Teachers relied too much on "hands up" question techniques, allowing some pupils to disengage.

* Assessment and progress data were compiled in a punctilious, bureaucratic way, but were not actually used to adapt teaching to secure better progress.

* Teaching assistants weren't used to good effect, spending too much time just standing listening to the class teacher and contributing little extra.

These aren't box-ticking points. They are simple, practical criticisms that most schools would take on board and change. Yet even under special measures, Salusbury won't take the hints. Why not?

if you are involved in the school we could have a proper conversation about it.

I'm not involved with the school and I'm cheering for the other team.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 16:17

Just to expand on your 'conspiracy' thinking Ricky - I focus on what I see and what I'm told by people I respect and trust rather. I just relate it back when it seems relevant. I don't have any kind of theory which is generating the observations.

But there are some things which I don't think I've said which you might be interested to hear.

Various accounts I've heard seem to indicate that soon after Gove arrived the word went round that nobody who criticised him in any way was to get any work or government contracts. He stated many times that he was on a mission to clear out 'the mandarins in the DFE' but in fact it was the people with ability, experience and the ability to translate policy into reality who were cleared out and replaced with yes men.

I've received accounts of very able and respected people suddenly not only finding they had no work but also that their invoices for existing work went unpaid. This very suddenly became the culture throughout the upper echelons of state education. It was 'either you play the game or you get no work and no contracts'.

It's very hard to not do what you're told if you know it means you'll lose your job - your children's education, your home and so will all your colleagues. It's also often the case that companies are doing great work for education which they care about which will not be done if they don't do it. I don't think these problems existed at the top (I've not seen or heard of any sign of them) until this government came along.

I don't know if there's a conspiracy or not. It could just be extremely ignorant and bad management by Gove and a lot of people being very scared.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 12:05

Ah - Tribal.

Tribal who employ the vast majority of the people who work for them on contracts where they can get rid of them instantly and at no cost and without them having any right to an explanation of why they've been dismissed.

I could write more.... and of course I have the evidence to justify my comment.

It was no surprise to me when it was Tribal who were brought in to deal with Downhills.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 13:58


Odd that you should have had a bad experience with Tribal. It seems unlikely that it was typical. On 22nd March this year Tribal was

independently certified as being among the best employers in the UK, proving that they take excellent care of their employees and provide exceptional working conditions

when the company was selected as one of Britain's 67 "Top Employers 2012".

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 14:18

Any idea what the research for that survey involves Ricky?

I didn't think Tribal had many employees - it seems to use associates mainly.

Do the surveyors take the time to interview those who've had their employment terminated? - I seriously doubt it.

Katherine Laweson's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 15:01

Tribal who admitted "cutting and pasting" some of their Ofsted reports in the summer...and my first reaction to seeing our report (some weeks befopre thsi admission was made public!) was to wonder why we had waited so long for something that looked like it had been cut and pasted in their lunch hour!! And Tribal who I am told under FOI has a list of employees on their website..but I couldn't find ANY of the names of our inspection team on there. Nice website though...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 15:16

Any idea what the research for that survey involves Ricky?


I didn’t think Tribal had many employees

It has 1300.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 15:42

Were there 1300 people on the list you saw Katherine?

Are you sure they are all employees and not associates Ricky?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 01/10/2012 - 15:51

The tick box culture is a huge problem for Ofsted Katherine but I think the problems have gone far beyond that now.

What seems to be happening in 2012 is that inspectors are visiting schools with a framework report into which they try scout the school for phrases to drop into the report to make it sound like it fits the school. Anything the inspectors see which contradicts the conclusions they have to reach is simply ignored.

Does that sound more like your experience? I've seen this not only in schools which are being labelled as being failing schools but also in schools which are being graded at other levels. I've seen a lot of reports this year and they all seem to be like this. Schools seem to be achieving the same score in everything.


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