OFSTED

OFSTED INSPECTIONS: FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

I had intended to (and still do) complete the fourth part of my series (if I can grandly call it that), Social Construction of OFSTED Reports. It did pass through my mind that if I waited long enough, OFSTED might simply implode. I’m busy, it’s a consideration.

Sadly, it’s not going to happen, OFSTED was never a serious proposition. Its purpose not to drive up standards but to control and enforce compliance of the most political, of all political footballs, education.  So, even its current humiliation will not see the end of it.

Ironically Michael Wilshaw’s desire to make a difference has caused the problem. Previous technocrats have plodded along re-iterating the pedagogic gibberish that has become the forte of OFSTED, and created so few ripples, that no one noticed the fact that  much of what OFSTED produced was frankly, barely worth the paper it was written on.

Mr Wilshaw has tried to instill a sense of purpose to the organization. He has failed. Like so many before him he has been tripped up by the layers of bureaucrats that comprise the education system. What is certainly true though, is that he has severed the link between teaching style and observations. As others have noted the suspicion is that OFSTED are going to try and muddle through by simply changing the language.

It won’t do. Teaching is a social activity impacted upon by the whole learning environment. You cannot expect to comment on teaching practice in a school in five formulaic bullet points. No one, when faced with such a proposition would consider it anything other than nonsense and yet the profession has done, for too long. The question is why? Is there any other profession that would take such crassness  seriously?

OFSTED has a role to play but it can no longer pretend that it has magic pedagogic panacea.  It would take a serious research project to make some kind of judgement on whether a particular aspect of practice was impacting upon learning. In the absence of the narrowly defined teaching and learning framework of OFSTED, who is to say what aspect of teaching is causing what behaviour, poor or otherwise. Causal relations have always been difficult to prove in education.

Of course, we can as a profession continue to tolerate such nonsense and probably will. I, for one,  hope that we don’t. I think the profession is damaged by the ills that have befallen OFSTED, but mostly we have all, as individual practitioners, to ask ourselves some serious questions. Far too many are prepared to co-operate with, well, the only word for it is palpable nonsense. It diminishes each and everyone of us.

“Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that”

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