Ofsted Is Irrelevant, Sadly

The Borg: Strength is irrelevant. Resistance is futile. We wish to improve ourselves. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours.

Capt. Picard: Impossible. My culture is based on freedom and self-determination.

The Borg: Freedom is irrelevant. Self-determination is irrelevant. You must comply.

Capt. Picard: We would rather die.

The Borg: Death is irrelevant.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Best of Both Worlds Part 1 (1990)

There was a time when I would have danced a jig for joy at the thought of Ofsted being irrelevant.

However, that is no longer the case. Ofsted in recent times have taken a most unexpected lurch towards sweet reasonableness and common sense (at least in some aspects of their operations).

This has wrong footed a number of us, I can tell you. Some might argue that it is too little, too late — but late is better than never.

That it is a genuine sea change can be gauged from the fact that Ofsted has felt it necessary to publish an “Ofsted mythbusters” page. Amongst the highlights are: no individual lesson plans are required for inspections; no set amount of lesson observation evidence and no internal individual lesson gradings will be required; and, there is no — repeat, NO! — requirement for any particular type, frequency or volume of pupil book marking or feedback.

And yet, and what have a large number of schools and multi-academy chains chosen to do with this valuable document? That’s right, they have chosen to IGNORE this advice and continue with their previous systems and procedures: the La-la-la!-I’m-not-listening!-La-la-la! stratagem, if you will.

This isn’t a case of Zombie-Ofsted, as I erroneously suggested in previous post. This is a case of research-informed, actually quite sensible educational advice being wilfully and deliberately ignored by a range of educational institutions.

The New Blob* has come into its own and it’s watchwords are:
1. Double and triple marking (using pens of many colours!)
2. Graded lesson observations (#Cause the graders gonna grade, grade, grade, grade, grade!)
3. Outstanding (as in “Are you an outstanding teacher?” — see no.2 above)

Ofsted is truly irrelevant, sadly.

* perhaps Edu-Borg might be a better description

9 thoughts on “Ofsted Is Irrelevant, Sadly

  1. julietgreen March 6, 2016 / 6:49 pm

    The key is in their wording. I can’t make the Softsteds (hah, see, what I did there?) accept that they are still to blame by being either deliberately or unintentionally vague. ‘No requirement for any particular type, frequency or volume of pupil book marking or feedback.’ doesn’t say, ‘Stop overdoing the marking!’ or, ‘We don’t want books to be triple marked.’ or, ‘Three stars and a wish are a pointless ritual!’ All they’ve done is literally say they don’t expect anything in particular. That’s no kind of help or argument when faced with a senior leadership that continues to demand an excessive amount of marking and written feedback. If they REALLY want to help bust the myths, they need to begin to illustrate a little more clearly what they do expect to see.

    • e=mc2andallthat March 6, 2016 / 6:53 pm

      Agreed, and well said. And also, although the organisation may be saying some of the right things, some inspectors don’t appear to be with the program, yet. And as for what some Regional Schools Commissioners are saying…

  2. ijstock March 6, 2016 / 7:26 pm

    Yep, I think Juliet is right on the nail. While they leave it to school managements and those have other targets to hit, they’re going to stick to what they know. Particularly if it got them Outstanding last time.

    • e=mc2andallthat March 6, 2016 / 9:59 pm

      Agreed, but from SLTs monitoring every twitch and hiccup emanating from Ofsted Towers, we’ve moved to a situation where most SLTs seemingly ignore the latest guidance ..

      • Requires Improvement March 7, 2016 / 6:59 pm

        It does feel like a demonstration of Newton’s first law; the original push may have gone, but the system is still moving in the same direction unabated.
        If that’s the case (and the human desire not to visibly change track would go along with that) then it might tanks Something Drastic to change things- like Ofsted reports saying “this is not a good school because it does demands silly things and grades single lessons…”

      • e=mc2andallthat March 7, 2016 / 7:30 pm

        Oh, lordy, if only…! You’re so right about bureaucratic inertia. I think C. Northcote-Parkinson would have an appropriate thing or three to say on this, but his books all seem to be out of print these days.

  3. ijstock March 7, 2016 / 8:31 pm

    I think it is a little more than inertia – more a matter of sticking to what you know. There’s a personal dimension to this – a lot of the current generation of heads have grown up on the diet of Ofsted-worship and its resultant habit of treating staff sternly (chooses his words carefully). It’s all they know – and now Ofsted has changed they’re not quite sure what to do instead.

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