By all means raise the bar, say school leaders, but beware labels that demoralise
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) says plans to introduce the new category of “requires improvement” require Ofsted to put its own house in order too.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said while the union at least welcomed the honesty of ditching the old term “satisfactory” and embraced the commitment to continuing rising standards, in reality all schools, however great, require improvement.
Mr Hobby said: “We have no real problem with Ofsted raising the bar – this country’s head teachers are as ambitious as anyone else for our children. But Ofsted makes insufficient distinction between schools that have already embarked on a programme of change and those which are ‘stuck’ and need help.
“Ofsted will also need to look again at its criteria, which partially judge a school by reference to average results. This would constantly push schools down into categories of threat even if they were good or outstanding by today's standards, creating unsustainable pressure.
“It is also time for Ofsted to get its own house in order. Inspections are too often at the whim of inspectors with little experience in the field they are inspecting and who have already made up their minds before they enter the school. Heads feel the results can be the luck of the draw. If inspections are getting more severe, then they need to be more consistent and of higher quality or there will be no justice in the findings. The new ParentView website, with its patent vulnerability to abuse, is an example of the low quality of some of the evidence that Ofsted plans to rely on.
“Schools have recently become the object of unremitting criticism from the authorities. Unless you plan on becoming an academy you are a second class citizen and the huge gains made in state schools in recent years are ignored: what is considered satisfactory today would have been regarded as excellent not so many years ago. Part of leadership is creating an inspiring vision which gives people at every level of the system the confidence to take risks and improve. By that criterion, our schools are being neglected at the same time as we demand more and more of them.”
Page Published: 17/01/2012