OFSTED changes- Too good to be true?

Maybe it’s the miserable bastard in me but I’m very cynical about these changes. I imagine this comes as a surprise to no one.

The “No preferred style of teaching” has me particularly underwhelmed. While I think it would be a positive change were it to happen I don’t believe it will be happening any time soon and here is why:

  1. The people conducting the inspections haven’t changed
  2. The pool from which inspectors are drawn hasn’t changed

While the organisation OFSTED may not have a preferred teaching style its inspectors almost certainly do.

Are we to believe that people who have been trained to believe that a certain style of teaching is better or worked in a system and environment where it was generally believed that style is better or worked as part of an inspection regime that believes that style is better is going to have their belief in their preferred teaching style changed by decree? It seems rather unlikely to me. Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias would get in the way for one thing.

I apologize in advance for this analogy as I know some people won’t like it but for me it’s a bit like political correctness. The school where I worked in 2000 served a very racist, sexist, homophobic community. However the brighter kids rarely said anything racist, sexist or homophobic. They knew it wasn’t allowed. That didn’t stop them from being very unpleasant to the asian kids, girls and homosexual kids. There was constant whining about how people weren’t allowed to say their opinion any more (My favourite comment of all time was “I think these days we’re afraid to be racist”) but the racism, sexism and homophobia was still there. You can’t change those attitudes by decree. How people express their attitudes and beliefs may have changed out of necessity but the outcomes are the same for those on the receiving end.

It seems to me that if an OFSTED team wishes to mark a school down for having the wrong teaching style then they can easily do so. It’s just that they can no longer state that as a reason that the school is being marked down. Why is that important? The focus is largely on the rating given in my experience rather than the reason for that rating. Recent events where the wording of some reports were changed but not the ratings (if I remember rightly) illustrate this.

If I was rating films out of a hundred and giving reasons for my ratings then action films generally and martial arts films specifically would always score high. A ludicrous plot always scores high and the more ludicrous the better. However if I were told there were no preferred style of film and no preference in terms of plot realism would my scores change? Unlikely. Would my reasons given change? Absolutely.

If OFSTED want to have no preferred teaching style then they need inspectors that have no preferred teaching style (almost impossible to do) or they need greater balance and for that I suspect they need to draw their inspectors from a wider pool.

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/about-us/working-for-ofsted/how-become-inspector

It says you have to have a wealth of Senior Leadership experience and while I understand the reasons for this it essentially means that would be inspectors have conducted observations in their schools for years with OFSTED’s previous preferred learning style in mind. I’d be very surprised if that did not impact on their perceptions of what is good teaching.

I’m slightly more positive about grades for lessons and teachers being scrapped although I won’t hold my breath waiting for them to be scrapped in schools. Sadly quite a few people either like them or do not wish to invest the necessary time coming up with an alternative.

In addition to this we don’t know who is going to win the impending election or what new drivel the Secretary of State for Education is going to inflict on us all after the election. Tristan Hunt doesn’t fill me with confidence and while Nicky Morgan might be different from Michael Gove in tone I can’t imagine there will be much shift in policy. However if she remains in post after the election then there will be changes as all Education Secretaries feel the need to make an impact.

For this reason I think grading of lessons and teachers will probably stay in a lot of schools until they see which way the wind is blowing after the election. Unless OFSTED specifically say schools should not be grading lessons or teachers any more I think that grades will remain for a while.

I know lots of people are a lot more positive about this than me. I hope they’re right but I don’t think so. Maybe it’s the miserable bastard in me…

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