The Birmingham schools affair has led to a predictably rushed response by the DfE and Ofsted and it seems in future no notice will be given to schools of inspections. The decision has led to a barrage of comments in the media, not least because of an unseemly row between Michael Wilshaw and Michael Gove over who prevented the policy being introduced previously*.
In reality, it was probably a sensible decision to abandon the plan last year and more discussion should take place with heads, governors, inspectors before going ahead with now.
The practical problems for schools (and probably inspectors) will be immense; indeed, many exist now with the 18 or so hours notice period and removing that will simply exacerbate them. Comments in, for example, the CiF section of the Guardian
about inspectors arriving on sports days were poo-poohed by some contributors saying this information would be available school web-sites. But as anyone with recent experience of schools knows there are a all sorts of events which may currently be cancelled or postponed after the call from Ofsted. Postponement might not be an option with no notice and this could lead to key staff being absent, for instance, and/or the chances of the inspection team getting an accurate picture of the school being reduced.
The local school of which I am a governor was recently inspected. I was asked by the head and chair to be one of a small group of governors to meet the inspectors. It took some time to contact me as I was away visiting family and without the present window, however short, I probably couldn’t have made it back in time. Of course there are other governors but most are working full time and would find it just as difficult to make meetings at such short notice. Indeed, I feel there is something inherently discourteous about the assumption that thousands of unpaid volunteers, many of whom are contributing an enormous amount of time and energy to schools, should make themselves available immediately when Ofsted snaps its corporate fingers.
But above all I think no notice inspections blow away any remaining thoughts (if indeed any do remain) that inspection is about school improvement through professional dialogue. One contributor to the Guardian
discussion on the issue said why should schools get any notice: after all the police don’t tell criminals they are about to launch a raid!
That might not quite be the view yet of Ofsted and the DfE but it seems to be getting a lot closer.
*LSN NOTE: Ofsted has now announced it was the inspectorate and not Michael Gove who dropped the idea for no-notice inspections two years ago. See report in Guardian