Matt’s View: Ofsted inspection system needs to go back to school

Greneway Middle School head teacher Laura Rawlings with pupils and the school's good Ofsted report

Greneway Middle School head teacher Laura Rawlings with pupils and the school's good Ofsted report - Credit: Archant

Even in the post-Leveson media landscape, no-one has yet suggested that a government inspectorate be set up to grade newspapers.

This is lucky for me, as I suspect that if an inspection team invaded the Crow office, we would not fare well – the appalling state of my desk would probably be grounds for failing any test you could think of.

Teachers are not afforded such luxuries, as they live in permanent of the dreaded five letter word: Ofsted.

As we’ve reported in The Crow recently, Royston’s two middle schools, Roysia and Greneway, have both come through Ofsted inspections with ‘good’ ratings, and well done to them – no doubt a lot of hard work has gone into getting their schools into a position where they can meet the inspection team’s vigorous standards.

But I do think the inspection process is fundamentally flawed, because since the Ofsted inspection criteria changed last year, it puts a greater emphasis on test results than ever before.

You might think that this is fair enough, but consider a school with a cohort of children from deprived backgrounds, or one where a large proportion of the school population are students with English as an additional language. Teachers at that school can do everything they can to raise standards, and consistently deliver lessons that the inspectors deem outstanding, but under the current rules their school will still be prevented from progressing if the children’s test results aren’t good enough. However, a school with the same standard of teaching in an affluent area, with children who mainly come from supportive families, is likely to get a more favourable report when Ofsted come calling simply because their children have an inherently better chance of achieving in exams.

Is that fair? I don’t think so, and would like to see some kind of value-added measure introduced, where schools are graded not just on the bare numbers but also on the difference they are making to their children.

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Even the inspectors themselves aren’t convinced about the merits of the current system.

“The bar has been raised and it is really focused on pupil achievement as it never has been before. There has been more flexibility for inspectors in the past, I think, to take account of context,” Graham Lancaster, Ofsted inspector and Area Improvement Manager for the Essex Primary Heads Association told the Times Educational Supplement.

Something needs to be done, because the way the system is at the minute, many schools are fighting a battle they can never win.