Friday, May 22, 2009

Ofsted has become a lever of power for the Govt rather than an inspection agency

For a few years I've been a school governor. Its an introduction to the public sector that has sent friends who have been Labour voting all their lives ( with a little Lib Dem moonlighting ) to vote Conservative for the first time in their lives, but I digress...

That's why I have full support for what Chris Woodhead is saying now about Ofsted.

Ofsted inspection reports make or break a school currently. Get a bad report and your put in special measures and every prospective parent can read about your schools failure for years to come. That reduces you intake and leads to financial problems at the school, which will lead to redundancies.

Ofsted are now the high priests of the national curriculum. No school dares to do otherwise than prepare to impress Ofsted. Rumours and indications of what Ofsted inspectors are paying particular attention to are eagerly listened to by schools eager to avoid the disaster of "a poor Ofsted".

Hence the misuse of Ofsted is now a key tool of the government social engineering agenda, as it abandons education and instead embraces the class warfare struggle and remodelling society, which for some reason doesn't seem to require standards or measurable capabilities.

The latest two theme from the Commissar Ed Balls are Diversity and Community Cohesion.

If you kids are at school right now you'll have noticed a sudden increase in "international weeks", "cultural awareness festivals" etc etc. Its the schools trying to avoid the infamous "Bad Ofsted".

Thus the national curriculum and Oftsed inspectorate have become part of the command and control from the centre, which no school or teacher can stand against.

Now I know the national curriculum was a Conservative idea, but where it has gone to has now become more than a danger to our education system ( notice Labour don't even talk about Education any more they are so ashamed of their failure here ) and to our society and democracy. Ofsted has become the political control department enforcing the latest mad edict from the class warriors who are Labour ministers.

As such something will have to be done about both by an incoming Conservative government.


The Half-Blood Welshman said...

To an extent this is true, and one of the reasons why a mooted OFSTED in HE would likely be a disaster. However, it should also be noted that Chris Woodhead is not an altogether reliable witness on the subject.

In the 1970s, he was a leading advocate of "progressive" teaching methods at the three schools he taught in, indeed a pioneer of them. Anyone can change their views, but it is irritating when they do so without accepting their previous position. While Woodhead has now disowned his former views, he seems reluctant to admit that he has "converted," preferring simply to blame everyone else for the damage they did, never mentioning his own part.

It is also worth noting that his former colleagues (I went to a school he had earlier taught in; several of his co-workers remained as staff and were not reticent on the subject) had no very high opinion of his abilities as a teacher. This may be one reason why he quit the profession in favour of university teaching, and later inspections. As an aside, did not C. S. Lewis, in the Silver Chair, say that the Head of Experiment House was no good as a Head, and was therefore made an inspector to interfere with other Heads? Then she proved useless at that too, so "entered PArliament where she lived happily ever after." I sometimes see a bit of that in Woodhead.

When OFSTED was first formed, he became ruthless advocate of traditional teaching methods, of forcing poor teachers from schools, and of a strict national standard of inspections. While meritorious in theory, even coming from a man with such a past, in practice this led to a vast, bureaucratic structure of inspections, that involved vast amounts of paperwork prior to each inspection. This added greatly to the burden of teachers, as well as sucking huge amounts of money from the system. It also severely disillusioned many excellent teachers, who quit the profession, and terrified many others whose teaching was fine. For instance, there was one teacher whom I knew, as a pupil, was very good, who nevertheless struggled with the fear of being labelled one of the 15,000 failures before every OFSTED inspection - reducing the time, energy and enthusiasm said teacher could devote to teaching. I doubt if that was uncommon. Really bad teachers tended to up their game for inspections anyway, and thus slip through the net.

By setting up this process, eschewing surprise "spot checks" in favour of massive central control, Woodhead ensured a national standardization of educational practice. Unfortunately there was rather less levelling up than levelling down. He also made the current strict central control of teaching and massive paperwork possible in the first place, through the structures he had established. He doesn't, in the link, seem anxious to acknowledge this.

I'm sorry to post such a long reply, but Woodhead has always been a bit of a doubtful advocate for standards in schools and freedom from central control, and I think it is important that should be made clear. I hope you find the information interesting.

Man in a Shed said...

@HBW - Thanks for that comment. Its always good to get informed opinion !

Its the ability for the whole education system to now be controlled centrally that worries me the most.

wildgoose said...

I spent 6 years as a School Governor. We actually decided on a deliberate policy of not attempting to improve our (excellent) Maths and English scores any further because we didn't want to damage the breadth of subjects we were covering.

Naturally, when our already top-rated Maths and English scores didn't rise yet again then we came in for criticism...

Scrap the National Curriculum. Scrap OFSTED. Replace with school vouchers and let parents and their children decide. After all, they are the ones who really know what goes on in a school day in, day out.