Adrian Elliott's picture
Our local paper is carrying a story today that a group of headteachers, including at least two in my area are setting up a national organisation Headteachers' Roundtable which has arisen out of 'frustration with current government educational policy and the Labour opposition to it'.

Their areas of concern include (unsurprisingly) inspection,curriculum, examinations and accountability.

It doesn't surprise me: having been a member of the Association of School and College Leaders (previously SHA ) for nearly thirty years I have never know such anger and frustration amongst headteachers.

I don't know whether the group have a website yet but they have a twitter account (not my forte!) at @HeadsRoundtable,have set up a meeting with Stephen Twigg and are hoping to meet politicians from other parties.
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Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/10/2012 - 16:34

Fiona Millar wrote about this in the Guardian on Monday. There's quite a twitter storm apparently:


Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 11:18

From Fiona's article:

The group – which has no name yet – met at the Guardian's offices to discuss their ideas.

Interesting choice of venue. Not really serious about engaging with the government then.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 08:31

I assume this has something to do with Fiona? In which case you do her a disservice with that comment Ricky.

Fiona's been attending and making highly intelligent contributions to consultations on education for a long time. People like her and me do this at our own expense because we care. Consultations are open and there are typically plenty of people from the DFE there.

At a time when all consultations became pointless we've worked hard in very difficult circumstances to try to keep intelligent and open conversation going. I'm certainly serious about engaging with government. The problem I have is that there are too many people around in positions of power who are not capable of understanding what I'm saying or realising it matters and precious few who are.

agov's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 11:05

"have set up a meeting with Stephen Twigg"

That's bound to be productive. Good luck with that.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 08:32

I've found him quite good to talk to. The second time we met he'd clearly taken the time to think about the points I'd left him with the first time.

Leonard James's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 08:00

Who exactly are you representing here Rebecca

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 08:48

I'm trying to represent the real world Leonard. I don't claim to do it brilliantly but in this world where reality is so desperately missing I'm just doing my best to try.

I started attending consultations under the last government (when I stopped teaching full time) because I'd experienced 'academyisation in Cumbria', huge problems with Ofsted and was becoming experienced in maths education and cared about that. I found it constructive to attend consultations then - people were interested in the practical problems I was raising and how to learn from them. I was horrified at how things changed when this government came in and how consultations became sham events.

I'm now a Lib Dem but not a partisan one. I talk to anyone and everyone.

Leonard James's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 09:05

When did the real world give you a mandate to represent it? I know quite a few teachers who'd take issue with some of your opinions about mixed ability teaching in particular - are you articulating these differences in opinions when you meet with the educational hierarchy?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 09:57

I don't have any mandate to represent the real world. Nobody does. It's not supposed to exist under this government. It's just an annoyance that needs to be put it its place.

Trying to represent reality is hell on legs. I have to pay to do it with money I don't really have. I don't get anything from having done it except abuse. The only upside is that along the way I've met others who are taking on similar thankless challenges because they care and they have been a pleasure to meet and have inspired me.

Leonard I don't want to be doing this. I want my life back. I'd rather spend my time and money on and with my children. But so long as chaotic policy hell is raining down and there aren't people in place who I feel I can trust to resolve it I will continue to try to make those who are in authority aware of the issues which are making life hell for my colleagues and friends in education. I work in teacher training and I want the future teachers who I have the privilege of working with to be able to teach well in a world where policy is vaguely sane.

I don't think I've ever spoken to anyone in authority about mixed ability teaching. It's not something which is discussed. It just seems to come up in forums. My views are based on my direct experience, as well as on my learnings from others who have done it. When you teach mixed ability classes in the ways which are traditionally respected as being good practice you see things in children which are unexpected and positive and powerful and I find that interesting. I'm at ease with others expressing their views too. My views on mixed ability teaching aren't really that controversial by the way - I wouldn't recommend anyone to do it in the present climate unless they had a school, a head and an HE institute nearby who were driving things and even then I'd be worried for them. In a more balanced policy environment I would only recommend schools do it part of the time - maybe in year 7 and/or for part of year 9 or something like that and then only if there was substantial school commitment to making it work. I can clearly lay out my reasoning as to what the benefits of doing this would be and I wouldn't expect everyone to agree with me or think it was the right thing for their school.

Adrian Elliott's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 14:50

There is a further report in the Guardian today including a report on a meeting arranged with ministers.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 16:00

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 15:41

surely you mean " the "LACK" of Labour opposition to it "????

Adrian Elliott's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 15:54

Rosie, I was simply quoting what they said- but I suspect they meant what you said!

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 16:02

let's hope so....Adrian

Andy's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 19:00

Adrian@ the level of frustration is beyond doubt but I fear that we say,a national organisation Headteachers’ Roundtable which has arisen out of ‘frustration with current government educational policy and the Labour opposition to it" you are according the group an erroneous political motivation/afilliation. They are a non-political group, I copy and paste directly from their wordpress page:

" Origins

The Headteachers’ Roundtable originated from a roundtable meeting facilitated by Ian Gilbert on 12 October 2012 at The Guardian newspaper offices. It grew out of frustration regarding current government educational policy and the Opposition response to it. Its origins and subsequent growth are down to the power of Twitter as a tool for connecting people to try and bring about change where they feel it is needed.

Core Purpose

We are a non-party politcal group that wants to influence national education policymakers so that education policy is centered upon what is best for the learning of all children."

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 30/10/2012 - 20:01

There are certainly people on the right of politics who share the headteachers' concern about Ofsted:

John McIntosh, the former head of London Oratory, is a key member of Michael Gove's curriculum review team. Unlike most of Gove's appointees, he has actually worked in schools, and he knows whereof he speaks. His warning that Ofsted inspectors are “taking the soul out of school” and “forcing teachers to deliver robotic lessons” must be taken seriously. He may overstate his case slightly: England still is still blessed with many teachers who have the sense to teach normally once the door has closed behind the inspectors. But all too often, teachers take the safe route and do as they are told.

But for being on the government payroll, McIntosh might well have gone further. There is little evidence that Ofsted inspections raise standards, especially in failing schools. More to the point, Ofsted is the fount of all bullying in our schools. As one inspector bragged to me, “Teachers are afraid of us”. You don't have to read the Guardian or the Times Educational Supplement to appreciate the delicate understatement here. Ofsted bullies heads, who in turn bully their senior managers. ...
....while Ofsted chief Michael Wilshaw was banging away about the need for discipline, a teacher I know was criticised by Ofsted because her pupils were too 'biddable'.

By now, one would hope that Michael Gove has noticed that Ofsted is still permeated with the progressive ethos that New Labour allowed to develop unchecked.

That's Tom Burkard on the Centre for Policy Studies website.


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 08:48

"John McIntosh, the former head of London Oratory, is a key member of Michael Gove’s curriculum review team."

Who's in it these days Ricky?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 13:46

John Coles, Peter Barnes, Bernice McCabe, Shahed Ahmed, Yasmin Bevan, John Martin, John Macintosh and Ruth Miskin.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 13:47

...oops missed out Tim Oates and Joe Prendagast... they may be one more...forget.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 17:35

Thanks Ricky.

Do you remember what I've told you again and again about how Gove and his team clear out all the people with ability and retain the mandarins who will tell politicians whatever they want to here so they can pursue their own interests? Here's the original team:
Professor Mary James, Tim Oates , Professor Andrew Pollard, Professor Dylan Williams.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 09:00

Ricky - thanks for sending that quotation. There is much truth there about Ofsted. However, you failed to notice the mismatch between the author's comments and what he really believes. For example:

1 What does the author think is teaching "normally once the door is closed"? Answer: it is teaching that matches the methods approved by the. That is every bit as prescriptive as Ofsted mandating three-part lessons (or whatever).
2 Who are the teachers "who have the sense" to teach "normally"? Answer: those teachers who use methods approved by the author.

These are the "progressive" methods of which the author disapproves in his own words on the website for his proposed free school:

“The Phoenix Free School will discard moral relativism and child-centred educational theory. ‘Self-esteem’ training is out: humans are quite selfish enough without this. Competition—now virtually banned in maintained schools—is in.”

This statement is inaccurate and relies for its effect on the implication that "moral relativism" is rampant in classes, that "child-centred educational theory" is a wishy-washy concept and that there are no competitive activities in state schools.


I hope the Headteachers Roundtable makes it absolutely clear that people who are not trained as teachers should be allowed to teach in any state school.

Andy's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 09:16

I've no idea the source that Ricky is citing but here is the Telepgraph article quoting McIntosh:


My observations about the article are as follows and (for me) give rise to the thought that Mr McIntosh may just be a tad behind the times in his critique of Ofsted:

I suggest this because:

1. Ofsted has never been independent of the government of the day. It therefore focuses on the areas that each government sets.

2. The inspection focus is on the pupil(s) and their learning. It is not about the teacher rather it is about gauging and evidencing the learning.

3. Achievement is also predicated on pupil learning. That is to say the pupils are making rapid and sustained progress over time. Yes, clear the teacher is leading the learning through the way it is packaged and delivered but, and critically, it is not about the teacher it is about the pupil.

4. The League Table and alleged Ofsted compliance culture is not driven by Ofsted. Here I would refer back to (1) above insofar as the League Tables and Ofsted regime are driven by the government of the day.

5. GCSE attainment is driven by DFE floor targets that in turn are set by the SoS (government of the day). Ofsted use the DFE/Government data collections through Raiseonline to seek out the underlying evidence to clarify how well a school is achieving against those DFE/government targets (e.g. are all pupils needs being met or is there underperformance/coasting)

6. 24 hour notice inspections are a red herring and do no damage to the leadership or management or operation or learning of a school. A well led, well managed school with quality teaching and learning at its heart should be able to take a no notice let alone 24 hr notice inspection in its stride. Arguably a position predicated on longer notice is more likely to indicate a leader lacking in confidence in their school.

7. The curriculum is determined by government not Ofsted.

8. The purpose of education is cast by parliament.

9. Like it or not the fact is that Sir Michael did not make a sweeping/generalised assertion about the number of teachers fleeing school with the pupils on the bell, this is a media myth. He did assert that there are teachers who do not pull their weight in the context of a minority that were holding back both the majority and pupil achievement.

10. Like it or not the teachers' pay policy has had and still does have a formal link to performance management since the introduction of the latter around 2000/01. There is then an inbuilt requirement for teachers to progress from the entry scale to the top scale through performance management (formerly 1-9 now 1-6). Pressure from the unions on previous governments effectively waived this requirement and schools practiced automatic incremental progression until the upper pay scale thresholds(UPS 1 - 3). So why the fuss over reasserting the actual criteria and re-establishing the link to performance management?

Points 2 and 3 do not readily lend themselves to a 'robotic tick box' culture. Perhaps this is an apposite point to quote from the Ofsted Inspection documentation:

"“Observing learning
111. Inspectors must not expect teaching staff to teach in any specific way or follow a prescribed methodology." (Taken verbatim from the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook, Sep 12)

I would suggest that too many Head's do not fully understand the Ofsted regime and are imposing misguided and inaccurate tick box strategies. They would be better focusing, as Ofsted now does, on:

a. Pupil attainment over time

b. Reducing the time teacher talks and increase the time pupils spend on task

c. Refocus on every pupil achieving/exceeding their targets NOT getting the school to hit national floor targets.

None of this is either robotic or tick box. Heads' may also want to avail themselves of the offer from Ofsted to shadow inspections. This must surely be better than paying for senior staff to attend inspection CPD from private providers.

It would have been better if the article had focused on urging clearer understanding of the inspection process by Headteachers and equally importantly urging for a path away from a heavily academic and cerebral curriculum that does not adequately prepare young people for their next steps in life (e.g. if they do not achieve academic GCSEs or GCE 'O' level equivalents through the EBacc Cert - which are of dubious quality - they are labelled as failures irrespective of their actual talents and competencies). In terms of Ofsted the biggest issue for me is hiving it off from the SoS such that it is truly independent but still answerable to parliament.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 13:10

I’ve no idea the source that Ricky is citing

Huh? I identified the source and even (to oblige Janet, who is strict in such matters) provided a link!

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 13:13

Ricky@ humble apologies - can't think how I missed it but I did, sorry!

agov's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 10:21

A couple of years ago, as has been pointed out many times, Ofsted was raving about community cohesion thinly disguised as concern about a balanced curriculum. Now it's about finding excuses to force schools into academy and eventually profit-centre status thinly disguised as concern about pupil attainment (or possibly achievement, depending on what day of the week it is).

Ofsted rarely if ever shows any real concern to be anything but the enforcer of whatever happens to be the current bright idea of some politician. Standards in education would be best improved by focussing on professional development not fiddling around with which politicians Ofsted serves. Ofsted should be abolished and the inspectors sent to salt mines to do some useful work.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 10:30

Ofsted should be reformed so that is complies with the regulators code which defines the best regulator practice which has been shown to drive improvement. State schools should be given the same rights public and private schools already have to challenge Ofsted if it deviates from this code and behaves in ways which are not transparent, proportionate or consistent.

This could achieved in just a few weeks with an order to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (2006).

Not all inspectors are bad and some who are bad could be good if they were properly directed.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 12:43

agov@ what a shame you spoil pertinent comments relating to cutting the apron strings holding Ofsted to the SoS with such trite yawn, yawn troll-like comments at the end.

agov's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 10:06

The sycophantic profundity of your cut and paste quotations together with your immense self-esteem is awesome.

agov's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 10:09

What you say Rebecca would be an improvement if achieved. Abolition and complete redesign would be better.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 12:35

agov@ all that and not a word about your self-righteous bigotry: your stance flood the thread with the contrition of agree with me or be savaged for holding a contrary opinion. You deserve yourself.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 14:30

And to you I say that if you want a redesign of Ofsted then it would be wise to involve our respected regulators who work to the regulators code in that redesign because a great deal of what they do is very well conceived and is entirely appropriate for education.

agov's picture
Fri, 02/11/2012 - 06:31

Perhaps Rebecca but involving some individuals in a redesign does not imply keeping the organisation for which they work. Some things are just too discredited to be reformed, except in the sense of being scrapped and starting again.

agov's picture
Fri, 02/11/2012 - 06:34

I leave self-righteous to you.

I picture you as a Liberal councillor lecturing your ward party members (i.e. the neighbour's dog) about all the really important things you said during the day.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 12:58

I do believe that the recurring reference to the LRRA (2006) was aired and evidence provided as to how and where Ofsted had changed to better fit the LRRA some months ago (e.g. reducing from around 12 to 4 the focal points for inspection and reducing paperwork by scrapping the compulsory SEF and requirement to provide barrow loads of school documentation).

I agree some reform is necessary but I also feel that it is far too easy to throw missiles at Ofsted without every acknowledging any changes it has made. That said, the most pressing reforms do not rest with Ofsted but the educational system and its infrastruture per se (e.g. High stakes examinations v Diploma style qualification such as the IB or Finnish or Canadian systems, remodelling the KS1 to 5 journey to ensure a truly linear pathway, debunking the cerebral/academically based Govian-EBacc and replacing it with something that acknowledges the diversity of skills/competencies and strengths of the national student body and needs of the workplace - a starting point could well be the ModBacc). Put another way there are far bigger fish to fry.

Incidentally, the Finnish system still retains an inspection service/role/function but one which while working to national criteria is more locally dispersed and focuses on schools that underperform. Finnish school do not then meander along willynilly irrespective of their performance, they are held to account.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 13:28


I agree with you that some commentators are behind the curve when it comes to Ofsted - perhaps not too surprising since their views are likely to be based on their last inspection, which could be some time ago.

Certainly the quotations you have provided from the new inspection framework and the handbook should encourage people to believe that Ofsted is changing for the better.

One thing, though, puzzles me in what you have said. You've given some prominence to the section on lesson observation that goes:

Inspectors must not expect teaching staff to teach in any specific way or follow a prescribed methodology...

but then your own advice to heads includes:

Reducing the time teacher talks and increase the time pupils spend on task

Why should this be necessary if Ofsted is now supposedly neutral on styles of pedagogy?

I've known some good teachers who use more direct instruction (teacher talk) than is fashionable because they really believe it works (and can cite research evidence to prove it sometimes) and others who use a mixture of teaching styles, depending on where they are in delivering the syllabus. These ones have in the past feared that if one of their direct instruction days happened to coincide with an inspection, they'd be penalized and some always kept an "Ofsted-proof" three-part lesson up their sleeve, just in case. They were probably right. But shouldn't the new rules mean they don't have to worry?

Andy V's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 13:51


I may not have articulated my meaning as well as I intended. On the one hand there is the Ofsted framework, which I for one wholeheartedly welcome (e.g. no more expectation for the inspector to see 3 part lesson or starter or plenary activity, with any absence being a thumbs down).

On the other hand is my personal/professional opinion - and I accept that there will always be exceptions to rule alongside supporters and detractors - that the engagement in the learning process should commence as early as possible in a lesson. This based on personal reflection and experience of leading T&L in schools (Deputy Head and AST) which encompassed regular feedback from pupils syaing they didn't work well / like XYZ lessons because the teacher droned on and on and the kids spent too much time listening and bored rather than getting involved.

Hope this helps

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 31/10/2012 - 14:04

Understood. Thanks.

Leonard James's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 08:10

Some questions;

1. Is a new policy sufficient proof that Ofsted have changed for the better?

2. Are the opinions of children really the best way to judge T&L - I mean some children happen to dislike bath washing but no one seems to be suggesting that they shouldn't have to wash?

Andy V's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 09:41

Leonard@ I never said that a new policy (framework) was proof rather I said it was indicative of change for the better.

T&L: I cited personal experience and stand by the fact that student opinion regarding their learning experience is valid and should not be ignored. I did not say that it was the only way of judging it, so please do not try to skew what I said.

agov's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 10:14

1 - No it isn't. Ofsted continue to make fearsomely wrong judgements about the real state of a school. At best they might be accurate about what they see on the day but may well be abnormal, with weaker teachers excelling themselves and outstanding ones having a minor blip. Then Ofsted proclaim their essentially wrong conclusions to the world leaving the school to clear up the destruction and continue with improvement programmes.

Leonard James's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 12:19

"Leonard@ I never said that a new policy (framework) was proof rather I said it was indicative of change for the better."

I fear that we are descending into pedantry here but I'll take the point for the sake of discussion. To me a new framework is indicative of very little aside from a desire to change or the appearance of change on the part of Wilshaw or whoever wrote it. There is some noise out there the message is being ignored on the ground.

"T&L: I cited personal experience and stand by the fact that student opinion regarding their learning experience is valid and should not be ignored. I did not say that it was the only way of judging it, so please do not try to skew what I said."

I don't recall suggesting that student voice is the only way to evaluate teaching and learning. I asked whether it was the best way - is it unreasonable to assume that you think it is, at least, the most important aspect of evaluating T & L since it is the only strategy mentioned explicitly by you so far?

Also I'm always disappointed when people start using personal experience and indeed appeals to their own authority as the primary sources of evidence for something that is apparently a 'fact'. Ignoring your experience is there evidence out there that children are able to offer feedback that actually improves the learning experience?

Andy V's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 12:51

Leonard@ I agree. Your pendatry is astounding. I make a contribution. You raise questions which I then respond to but because you don't like my straight forward answers you accuse me of pendantry.

Frankly I have better things to do with my time than enter a onesided debate with a pendantic bigot.

Leonard James's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 13:23

Does this mean you've got no evidence to support those 'facts' you mentioned then?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 10:59

Any doubts about Ofsted might well be dispelled by this very recent (1 Oct) report in the new form. Certainly not slow to praise where praise is due.

This school has been in special measures for two years.

The dynamic and visionary leadership of the headteacher, his senior leadership team and key governors have transformed this school.....
The extremely rigorous monitoring of teaching and learning, and the relentless focus on sharp performance management targets, have very effectively eradicated all inadequate teaching and rapidly increased the proportion of good and better teaching.
Teaching is mainly good with an increasing proportion of practice that is outstanding.


Leonard James's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 11:36

This report tells us very little about how this school has improved.

What strategies is the head using to improve teaching and learning aside from Ofsted style compliance and control inspections?

What does 'favourable' mean when results are compared to the national average?

What evidence is there from the inspection that behaviour is good? What happens if it a student misbehaves?

Why is the opinion of just over half of a small sample of parents deemed as admissible evidence about behaviour?

How was the 'engagement' of students measured?

What exactly does 'exceptional' mean?

Why is the head 'visionary'?

Why are uncritical sound bites from anonymous members of staff used as supporting evidence - surely there was more staff feedback included in the analysis?

The failure of the inspection team to justify anything suggests that this report serves very little purpose other than as a vehicle to convey their apparent slavering admiration of the head teacher who, from what I can see here, has done little more than introduce an Ofsted style inspection regime in his own school - and what a stroke for such flattery is surely the best way to impress those that are judgemental, egotistical but too lazy to look for anything beyond superficial compliance.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 12:12

The Ofsted report praised the local authority which "has provided pertinent and specialist support of the highest quality at key points during the rapid journey of improvement over the past year."

The head, whose “dynamic and visionary leadership” was praised by Ofsted, was described by the Telegraph last year as a “disciplinarian superhead”. After taking over the school in June 2011 he tried to kick in the door of a member of staff who had ended their three-month affair.

I’m not sure that’s what Ofsted means by “dynamic”.


Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 12:30

There are 1,218 students on roll at Clarendon College yet Ofsted mentioned only 19 responses to the on-line questionnaire (Parent View). Inspections under the old regime used to send questionnaires to parents – this system brought a higher response.

Parent View now has 20 responses for this school.

It’s hardly a representative sample.

A cynic might say that relying on Parent View which only attracts a tiny number of responses, if any, avoids the embarrassment of a large number of parents having an opinion which conflicts with Ofsted’s.


Ricky - please note that Ofsted also praised the LA for its high quality "pertinent and specialist support".

Leonard James's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 12:21

If this is true then what a role model!

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 12:56

Ricky – please note that Ofsted also praised the LA

Not surprised. Wiltshire has a pretty efficient council - having only 2 Labour members out of 98 probably has something to do with that.

Leonard James's picture
Thu, 01/11/2012 - 13:25

If they are so great why is the school converting to academy status then?


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