Where now for Ofsted?
The May Education Forum will discuss the increasingly puzzling question of the nature and educational status of Ofsted.
From a position of confident overseer of educational standards and ‘3-part lessons’ under New Labour, Ofsted was expected to smoothly improve its profile under Michael Wilshaw - and work well with Michael Gove at the Department for Education. However, recent discussions and debates imply that the perfomance of Ofsted itself could ‘require improvement’. First, a spat between Wilshaw and the DFE highlighted a difference of approaches to the classroom, Wilshaw even going so far as to criticise the notion of ‘serried ranks’ of compliant students. Furthermore, a series of inspections based on ‘data’ and ‘progress’ and ‘raise online’ have seen Ofsted criticised for inconsistency on twitter. Indeed, many schools and parents are said to be confused about what exactly Ofsted are ‘looking for’, as evidenced in the increasingly Byzantine discussions of ‘levels of student progress’ - in the absence of levels of student progress! If this confuses you too, rest assured, you are not alone!
Meanwhile, Ofsted themselves have pointed to the need to a more collaborative approach to school inspection and have even gone so far as to criticise their own inspectors for grading down teachers who talk a lot. Most recently, at the Academies Show, Ofsted’s Michael Cladingbowl said he was considering removing the ‘judgement box’ from Ofsted’s lesson inspection sheet.
With all these changes, this Education Forum asks: what role does Ofsted play today? How should teachers, schools and educators respond? Does school inspection really matter? What is the best way to judge schools in the era of self-evaluation and data dashboards? And, with so much discussion of inspection, what happens to education?
David Perks, Principal of the East London Science School.