Ofsted Chief Inspector hints at recommendations before publication of report. Is this any way to conduct proper debate?

Janet Downs's picture
“Secondary schools face being told to stream pupils by ability after a major inquiry by Ofsted found that state comprehensives were failing large numbers of the brightest children,” said the Telegraph.

So where is this major inquiry? You’d expect it to be mentioned on Ofsted’s news page but not a syllable.

It appears Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted Chief Inspector, decided to reveal Ofsted’s recommendations to the Sunday Times before the report is made public. These recommendations, according to the DT, include directing secondary schools to introduce streaming by ability (so much for schools being able to use their professionalism), national targets to persuade more state schools pupils to get places at leading universities (cue schools leaning on pupils to apply to Oxbridge even if it’s not in their best interests) and tracking pupils who achieved Level 5 or more in Key Stage 2 Sats to ensure they reach their potential (as measured by Sats which might not be true ability especially if the pupils were drilled to pass the tests).

Sir Michael should have waited until the report’s publication before fuelling speculation about what it contains. Of course, Sir Michael knows what’s in the report but it’s unacceptable that he should throw carrots to the press before the public and the media can read the whole document. He should act with more professionalism and reticence. The correct response to any unpublished Ofsted report is to wait until it has been placed in the public domain. Schools are forbidden to discuss their Ofsted reports before publication – Sir Michael should apply this standard to himself.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools is behaving like some politicians – leaking little snippets to selected media outlets before anyone, including the rest of the media, has had the chance to read the full evidence.

This is treating the media, teachers, politicians and the public with disrespect.

EXTRA The Sunday Times (subscription required) reports that Sir Michael “orders heads to stop whining”. He can’t understand why heads are upset, he said, all he wants is that they don’t run mediocre schools.

Perhaps we can help Sir Michael understand the heads’ fury.

1 Ex-Ofsted Chief Inspector says recent Ofsted changes are likely to increase pressure on schools to raise exam results by all possible means.

2 Accountability measures can distort what is taught.

3 Schools are being forced into becoming academies by dubious means.

4 The Secretary of State for Education constantly criticises teachers and heads. The latter were attacked in a Times editorial which read more like a parody than a serious piece of journalism.

5 The exam system should encourage pupils not demotivate them.

6 League tables encourage schools to play safe and not to innovate.

7 Nothing is ever good enough, it would appear.

8 Michael Gove bases his education policy on misusing international data and citing dodgy surveys.

And if that’s not enough, here’s the NAHT response to Gove’s editorial in the Times.

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