Chief Inspector is "spitting blood" as he accuses DfE of briefing against him

Janet Downs's picture
When Michael Gove head-hunted Sir Michael Wilshaw to be Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, some suspected the relationship would be a little too cosy. Sir Michael had been on record as saying you knew you were doing a good job when teacher morale was low. Such sentiments would likely appeal to Gove.

LSN has often criticised Ofsted. Concerns included:

1 Would Ofsted changes increase pressure on schools to raise exam results by any means?
2 Is Ofsted friend or foe?
3 How independent is Ofsted?

And eighteen months ago I asked if it was time to call time on Ofsted.

One teachers’ union accused Sir Michael of being “Big Brother”. In 2013, the NAHT said Ofsted’s regime was “punitive and short term”.

But such criticisms as these seem not to have concerned Sir Michael – he’s told teachers to stop whining.

Other voices have complained Ofsted inspectors are too prescriptive and only validate certain teaching methods. Sir Michael has had to remind inspectors in a letter, reproduced on Helen Myers’ blog, that they must not “give the impression that we are still telling teachers how to teach.”

But now Sir Michael is “spitting blood” because of attacks on Ofsted from two right-wing think tanks. And Sir Michael claims the Department for Education has been briefing against him.

It’s reported that Civitas and Policy Exchange are undergoing inquiries into Ofsted. Their reports haven’t been published yet but the Times appears already to know the outcome: they want Ofsted scrapped.

Their calls for Ofsted to be disbanded are not because of the complaints given at the top of this thread, it appears. According to the BBC, “Civitas would say Mr Gove's wish for schools to develop their own approaches to teaching was being held back by child-first orthodoxies among inspectors, who were stifling innovation.”

In Sir Michael’s defence, he is on record as saying inspectors must not appear to tell teachers how to teach. And it’s unclear from the comment by Civitas, publishers of the Gove-approved “Core Curriculum” which is used in academies sponsored by schools minister Lord Nash, why it thinks “innovation” is only innovative when it isn’t informed by what it disparages as “child-first orthodoxies”. Surely if Gove is in favour of teachers’ professional freedom then it includes the freedom to use teaching methods which he personally dislikes?

So what could be the real reason why Civitas or Policy Exchange, which was set up by Gove some years ago and which published a Gove-endorsed report before the last election promoting for-profit schools, are attacking Ofsted?

Could it be because, as the Independent suggests, “Sir Michael reportedly angered Mr Gove's administration by insisting upon using the same Ofsted standards for free schools and academies as inspectors do with any other school”?

Apparently, Civitas wants a new inspectorate for academies and free schools. This is, of course, unacceptable. If there is an inspection regime (and not all countries have the equivalent of Ofsted), then it should be the same for all schools including independent ones.

Whatever the reason, Civitas and Policy Exchange are denying any outside influence.

But Sir Michael doesn’t believe them.

UPDATE 27 January 2014

According to the Guardian, the two Michaels are now best buddies again. Michael Gove has said he supports Michael Wilshaw "100%". Gove denies anyone employed by him has briefed against Sir Michael. Technically, of course, no-one at the DfE, including special advisers, are directly employed by Gove - they are civil servants (temporary ones, in the case of spads).

Nevertheless, Civitas has, according to the BBC, said it was motivated by a belief, attributed to Gove, that Ofsted is, in the words of the Times, "sixties-mired". It also apparently wants a different inspection regime for non-academies and academies/free schools. While any inquiry into Ofsted is welcome because of the numerous concerns listed at the start of this thread, it should be truly independent and not apparently motivated by what Gove thinks. Perhaps it's time the Education Select Committee had another look (see details of the Select Committee's 2011 Ofsted inquiry here).
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Barry Wise's picture
Sun, 26/01/2014 - 15:29

How right wing is Civitas actually?

I only ask because while Googling to find out what it was saying about Wilshaw etc. , I came across an earlier 2008 Civitas thinktank report on Ofsted.

The Introduction was by Labour MP Barry Sheerman and one of the report's authors was Warwick Mansell.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 26/01/2014 - 16:17

Civitas has been very critical of Academies. This is an example.

De Waal A (2010), The Secrets of Academy’s Success, Civitas Report

This quotes me a fair bit.

There is also a 2008 paper 'Inspecting the Inspectorate - Ofsted under scrutiny' by a range of (not right wing) authors including Warwick Mansell and John McBeath.

This should also be on the Civitas website.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 26/01/2014 - 16:18

The Civitas link I gave no longer works but I am sure you will find it on the website.

A Cooper's picture
Sun, 26/01/2014 - 19:55

Roger, you might want to look at the E D Hirsch inspired Core Curriculum that Civitas are promoting too. Discovery based learning does not seem to be its underpinning principle.

A Cooper's picture
Sun, 26/01/2014 - 20:01

There is another piece on their website about the lack of accountability for Ofsted too, dated 2009:

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 26/01/2014 - 20:52

Yes you are right. There appears to have been a shift in the balance of influence at Civitas. Presumably only insiders would know about this.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 26/01/2014 - 21:06

There is no shortage of complaints on this site about apparent lack of consistency with regard to Ofsted judgements. I think many of us agree that Ofsted needs to reformed and replaced by an entirely professional and independent HMI reporting directly to parliament. However perhaps what is being proposed is not primarily about inspection, but privatisation. Could it be that the privatisation lobby are worried that the present trickle of poor Ofsted judgements of Academies, Free Schools and the organisations and businesses behind them could soon become a flood, so undermining the privatisation momentum?

John Mountford's picture
Sun, 26/01/2014 - 21:50

The two Michaels seem to be content to continue their 'love affair' as this report on the BBC website suggests.

It is ironic that the two individuals who have done more than anyone else to damage the reputation of a whole profession through fierce blanket criticism and dishing out blame like goodies at a kids party are so fragile when there is the slightest whiff of criticism of their actions. If you can't take it, don't dish it out would be my advice to both of these giants of of our nation's education service.

Maybe someone close to him should remind MW that 'moaning' about criticism isn't a very appealing trait. At the same time they could remind him that Ofsted is a major sub-contractor and that as such its judgements are inevitably beset by proven variation. Our local primary school was recently inspected by one inspector present for barely two days. The oral feedback turned out to be quite different in a number of respects from the final written report and the HMI who later carried out the monitoring visit confirmed that Ofsted (HMI) are keen to see more schools and governors challenging findings from contractors when they feel aggrieved.

After reading the comments by the Director of Civitas and a spokesman for Policy Exchange, both declaring their independence from the influence of the DfE and its officials, I would say this particular story has a way to run yet and that the two Michaels may face challenging times ahead. LETS ALL HOPE!!

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 07:19

Roger - there's a working link to the document you mentioned at the bottom. Look at Civitas' website however, and there seems to be a split between the research section and the educational section. The former contains, as you say, articles critical of academies, but the latter plugs the Gove-endorsed curriculum which, of course, Civitas sells.

A conflict of interest, perhaps?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 09:45

Roger, apparently Civitas wants a separate inspection system for academies and free schools. This is, of course, unacceptable. But this has been mooted before. The Policy Exchange document, "Blocking the Best" (one of its co-authors was Rachel Wolf, who was part of the New Schools Network at the time), recommended:

"Ofsted should be required to inspect academies in relation to their legal and particular contractual (funding agreement) obligations, not its maintained school framework."

Gove, shadow education secretary at the time, welcomed the report.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 09:47

I am puzzled.

The letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw to Ofsted inspectors surely proves that HMCI shares the criticisms of Ofsted by the think tank people? Otherwise, why is he rapping the naughty inspectors across the knuckles?

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 09:48

(The letter I'm referring to is the one Janet links at Helen Myers's blog.)

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 10:49

Barry - exactly. Sir Michael sent a letter which reminded inspectors NOT to comment on teaching styles. That was before the Times article which alleged the two think-tanks criticised Ofsted because it was "sixties-mired" and thus preventing "innovative" teaching (this implies, of course, that "innovative" teaching is not innovative if it is based on "child-based orthodoxies" - presumably the much-abused and misrepresented Plowden).

But that letter wasn't enough, apparently, to deflect their criticism of Ofsted. So, what else is motivating them? Speculation, of course, but could it be something to do with:

(a) Wilshaw's opposition to separate inspection regimes for academies/free schools and non-academies;
(b) Wilshaw's opposition to some of Gove's pronouncements eg re groupwork ;
(c) When the Guardian prints an article supporting aspects of Wilshaw's policies .

That last one's tongue-in-cheek. Obviously.

That said, an NAHT blogger says the Policy Exchange investigation "sounds like precisely the sort of enquiry which needs to be done." But she has a nagging doubt: that whatever the conclusions, the media will only concentrate on examples of schools "gaming" the system and not on "the stupidity of a system which encouraged such actions."

Andy V's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 11:21

I agree that there has been too much criticism but not all of it has been misplaced or unfocused. I believe the profession must accept criticism and not give knee jerk negative reactions to it per se.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 11:26

It must also be remembered that what Sir Michael was doing was in support consistency in that he was reminding all inspectors and their ISPs about what the inspection handbook actually states. This also links in with a previous discussion on LSN about Ofsted central pulling all inspection reports for additional /QA scrutiny to ensure that the evidence collected during an inspection (EFs) supported the content and judgments of the actual report.

Brian's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 11:33

Indeed some of Wilshaw's criticism has been well judged and evidenced. To me the problem is not so much the criticism, but the style in which it is delivered, both hectoring and sweeping statements. Of course Wilshaw would say that the public should look beyond headlines and read the text of what he has to say. Some hope.

This has encouraged journalists, such as Gove, to capitalise on the style and the generalisations to create an 'it's all awful we've got to do something quickly' atmosphere.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 11:46

Janet, taking your 3 points at the top of the thread I would posit the following musings:

1 Would Ofsted changes increase pressure on schools to raise exam results by any means?

If one assumes that Ofsted is about holding schools to account for their performance through the lens of progress and achievement for all pupils then it is easy to suggest that in so doing it is Ofsted's fault that some HTs' implement less than professional methods. However, the reality is that it is the HT who decides on what action is taken in their school not Ofsted.

2 Is Ofsted friend or foe?

In terms of Ofsted's remit is this a fair position to adopt or just a wrong question? I would suggest that it is not a regulator's role to be either 'friend or foe'. Far better than they be as consistent and neutral in ascertaining the evidence relating to a schools performance. This for me a more telling question is, 'Are Ofsted sufficiently consistent and if not what can be done to uplift the levels of consistency?'

3 How independent is Ofsted?

I suspect that a review of the announcements made by Sir Michael over the past 12-18 months, and in particular the last media coverage, will lean toward Ofsted's independence rather than poodle/stooge characterisation. The key here is following the examples set in consolidating the Bank of England's and QCA's freedom/independence from their respective SoS.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 13:09

Andy - the 3 points linked to older threads. I'll deal with them one at a time. The first was a summary of an article re Ofsted inspections by ex-Chief Inspector, Sir Mike Tomlinson, which focused particularly on the teaching of science (although the points made could be applied more widely).

1 The positive: quality of teaching in science had increased.

2 The negative: teaching to the test, over-simplified use of data, and the stifling of innovation.

Sir Mike concluded that the “weight of all the accountability measures needs to be reduced and test and examination requirements overhauled”. Ofsted should rely less on test data and more on direct observation.

I'll deal with the other two later.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 13:29

Janet - Thank you. Without wishing to sound trite or patronising, I have the greatest respect for Sir Mike, and agree with a significant section of the profession that his suggested changes were a massive opportunity lost, but (and you knew there would be one :-) ). The current HMCI has significantly changed to focus of inspections and in relation to Sir Mike's observations:

a. Ofsted do not prescribe any pedagogy and as such innovation is no longer stifled. Instead the focus is on progress and achievement for all categories of learner (no matter what the T&L activity or strategies i.e. it is about impact).

b. Teaching to test is neither Ofsted's recommendation nor focus. This decision rests firmly with the HT and/or subject leaders

What does need radical surgery - bit like cutting out a tumour - are the league tables and arbitrary floor targets. For me it is these that stimulate teaching to test and undue/unnecessary pressures. But these are not within HMCI/Ofsted's gift they rest with the SoS Education.

Brian's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 14:04

Based on very limited evidence (i.e. one example), I suspect the stifling of innovation by Ofsted inspections could be a problem. I worked with a school last year where a very strong teacher (consistently outstanding in my judgement) had planned to try an 'innovative' lesson with her class. Oftsed arrived, she went ahead anyway, it didn't work ... judgement ... inadequate lesson. Despite assurances from the inspector that other evidence clearly showed that the teaching normally was at least good that lesson was still recorded as inadequate. Not really an encouragement to be innovative, especially as the message other schools picked up was 'play safe'. I'm well aware that innovation isn't just one lesson once in a while, but innovation is risky and the current Ofsted regime, with pernicious league tables, tends to make schools risk averse.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 14:17

Brian, true it is only one example but regrettably the balance of probability is that it will not be an isolated example. What it points up to me is the need for this type of specific example to be taken up by HTs during their inspection and as follow-up. This is a key way of illustrating to Ofsted central (and the ISPs) the nature of inconsistency in the way the handbook and subsidiary guidance is being erroneously applied. I understand that a crucial word inspectors are bound by in making balanced judgements is 'triangulation' (e.g. the specific lesson set against subject based and SLT observation data plus the colleague's and subjects results). I strongly suspect that this a core area where inspectors are not stepping up to the plate and is another reason for the mystery of the missing reports (i.e. pulled for QA to compare the EFs with the report).

Brian's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 14:45

Generally I find inspectors do use triangulation when making overall judgements. But for individual lessons they can't and it's the impact on teachers of an 'inadequate' judgement which stifles innovation in class. Of course it can also stifle overall innovation ... good SATs results, let's not risk a downturn in a couple of years. That change in teaching and learning might move us to outstanding, but it might not work. Hands up all those voting to risk it with Ofsted due in a year or so.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 15:13

I acknowledge that it is taking triangulation to a deeper level but schools are awash with data and a HT who knows their school will be able to present Ofsted with information such as progress and achievement from previous years by subject and in turn the overall performance of colleagues whether it be KS3, 4 or 5. Thus if a colleague is graded 4 for an observation the in school data can be used to contextualise it (e.g. either the colleague or inspector had a bad session). Indeed, the handbook states that:

118.The most important role of teaching is to promote learning and to raise pupils’ achievement. It is also important in promoting their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Teaching should be understood to include teachers’ planning and implementing of learning activities, including the setting of appropriate homework across the whole curriculum, as well as marking, assessment and feedback. It encompasses activities within and outside the classroom, such as additional support and intervention.
119.The judgement on the quality of teaching must take account of evidence of pupils’ learning and progress over time. Inspectors must not simply aggregate the grades awarded following lesson observations.
120.Inspectors should consider the extent to which the ‘Teachers’ Standards’ are being met.
121.Inspectors must not expect teaching staff to teach in any specific way. Schools and teachers should decide for themselves how to teach. Inspectors should gather evidence to judge and report on how well children are engaged in lessons, acquire knowledge and learn well.

Evaluating learning over time
126.Inspectors’ direct observation must be supplemented by a range of other evidence to enable inspectors to evaluate what teaching is like typically and the impact that teaching has had on pupils’ learning over time. Such additional evidence may include:
evidence arising from observations of lessons carried out by school leaders
discussions with pupils about the work they have undertaken and their experience of teaching and learning over longer periods
discussion about teaching and learning with teachers, teaching assistants and other staff
the views of pupils, parents and staff
the school’s own evaluations of the quality of teaching and its impact on learning
scrutiny of pupils’ work, with particular attention to:
how well and frequently marking, assessment and testing are used to help teachers improve pupils’ learning
the level of challenge provided
pupils’ effort and success in completing their work and the progress they make over a period of time.

It follows then inspectors should simply (and crudely) take what they see in a maximum 25 min slot but take many other factors into account.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 15:15

Ophs! Apologies for final sentence. It should read:

It follows then inspectors should not simply (and crudely) take what they see in a maximum 25 min slot but take many other factors into account.

How did I forget the all important "not"

Brian's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 15:47

I think we're in agreement about this Andy. However the distinction I make is between the overall judgement on teaching and learning as an inspection outcome, which is what your handbook extracts are focused on, and the impact of individual lesson observation judgements on individual teachers. I worked with a school last year where the inspectors judged teaching and learning all lessons observed as good. However, and I refer to my feedback notes 'It is clear from the school data, the quality of work in pupils' books, conversations with pupils and the school's own observation records that teaching and learning is normally outstanding and so that is the overall inspection judgement'.

Nevertheless the possibility of a fall in test outcomes and maybe a decline in quality of pupils' work for a while make the risks of innovation too risky for many schools and maybe too risky for individual teachers during inspections. I've had to work with plenty of headteachers post-inspection trying to raise the spirits of teachers who had been told their lesson (often only one observed) required improvement and therefore feel they have made no contribution to the school's overall 'Good' judgement. Good triangulation doesn't always convince. 'But it might have been outstanding if my lesson had been good' ... quote.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 15:57

Andy - your right that league tables and floor targets stifle innovation, result in teachers playing safe or, worse, teaching to the test and "gaming". Hopefully, the new emphasis on progress will stop the pernicious focus on headline results which often reveal little about a school except its intake.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 15:58

Andy - there is one teaching method which Ofsted have to comment on: the teaching of phonics (described oddly by Ofsted as "the letters that sounds make" - next time I hear the wind blowing I'll try and see the letters created by the noise). It assumes if pupils pass the phonics test then they've been taught phonics well and if they fail then they haven't. But UKLA 2012 concluded the test "impedes successful readers and has failed a cohort of the most fluent readers."

My understanding is that the most fluent readers were looking for meaning and couldn't comprehend the nonsense words. This led to some of them "failing" which Ofsted presumably would have misinterpreted as their being unable to decode.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 16:05

Andy - point two re whether Ofsted is friend or foe. The link reiterated Sir Mike Tomlinson's thoughts and also linked to the Academies Commission's belief that league tables stifled innovation. It would perhaps have been better to link to the Education Select Committee's recommendations re Ofsted which included a concern that Ofsted’s remit should be clearer – there is confusion as to whether it is a regulatory and inspection body, or an improvement agency.

And, of course, there was Sir Michael Wilshaw's remark about low teacher morale being a good thing - not exactly friendly.

John Wadsworth's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 16:06

Denials from Gove in relation to Policy Exchange are unconvincing. As you say he founded Policy Exchange which is carrying out research into Ofsted (the closing day for responses was 24th January). Head of Education Policy at Policy Exchange is a co-founder (and chair of Governors at the Greenwich Free School, where the funding agreement was signed off even though there were over 1600 surplus places at the time (something that is not supposed to happen). Could it be that Gove aurthorised it because of his links with Policy Exchange and the fact that the other co-founder is a senior advisor to Gove at the DfE? Whatever the reason GFS has received over £11.5 million of taxpayers money from the Education Funding Agency as a result.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 16:07

Sorry Andy and Brian but I can't see any validity in 'triangulation' used to moderate a judgement of a lesson inspection.

A lesson inspection relates to a particular individual teacher. You are right that the school and the inspection team have shedloads of data but all of them that are based on high stakes assessments (KS1) SATs (KS2) and GCSE (KS4) are fatally compromised by the potential for gaming and inherent statistical uncertainty.

Even if this elephant in the room is ignored then it is highly unlikely that the school possesses any valid data on the performance over time of the teacher in question. If such data were available for all the teachers in the school there would be no point in inspecting lessons. For lesson inspections to have potential validity then they would have to be far more extensive and systematic than can be achieved by two inspectors in two days.

I have great respect for you both but I suspect you are failing to see the wood for the trees.

What actually happens is that the lead inspector makes her mind up before the inspection on the basis of the shedloads of (invalid) data available, then visits a few lessons for short periods for material to pad out the report.

If MW is doing an inspection then he has made it clear that if he comes across a class where the teacher is dressed in shirt sleeves and jeans, and pupils politely call the teacher 'Pete', then (after he has descended from the ceiling) the teacher and the school will get hammered.

Unlike the vast majority of teachers and Ofsted inspectors I spent a large part of my career as a teacher and a Vice Principal in a school where such classroom scenes were commonplace. My eldest daughter attended another such school from where she progressed to a Russell Group university, a first in Chemistry and a PhD. I have (and had) many serious professional criticisms of both schools, but the dress code of the teacher and the use of first names by both pupils and teachers would not be high on the list. That is not to say that I sought to encourage either in my headship school. Even if it there were significant positives in such a culture it would not be worth the trouble that would have resulted. However the very best teaching and learning I have ever witnessed were in classes where there were no dress codes for teachers or pupils. Some of the teachers wore suits and ties. There was simply no connection whatever between how the teachers dressed and the effectiveness of the lessons.

If right wing think tanks are concluding that Ofsted in its present form is not fit for purpose then they are right. I don't think they will have too much difficulty making the case.

This thread got justifiably distracted with the scenario of MW and MG seriously falling out and influential right wing pressure groups using the failings of Ofsted as a Trojan horse for the state funding of private schools without any national inspection and regulation system at all.

So how should schools be judged and held to account in the interests of pupils and their parents? I have already set this out in another thread. Not by high stakes one-off, dramatic inspections as per the Ofsted model. There should be continuous oversight, assistance and regulation of standards by a local democratically accountable LEA for all the schools in its area, state funded and private alike (including Eton and Wellington College). Ofsted should be abolished and replaced by an independent HMI answerable directly to parliament, whose job would be primarily to ensure that LEAs were effective in their regulation and to occasionally inspect individual schools to ensure that this was the case.

My guess is that the world's most effective school systems are far more like my model that the Ofsted model.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 16:08

Andy - the ordering of comments seems to have gone awry. My comment dealing with the second point (above) appears before my comment dealing with the first point.

To avoid further confusion, my comment on the third point should, I hope, appear at the bottom of current comments. The link under point 3 was to a thread written by Roger. Perhaps Roger will answer you comment about point 3.

Brian's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 16:10

'Hopefully, the new emphasis on progress ...'. It should certainly be better but isn't without its problems for individual schools. From a limited sample, focusing on expected (two levels) progress across KS2. Both real schools:

School 1: most children start school well below national expectations and score every low, if at all, on entry to EYFS. Progress in EYFS / KS1 is good and a significant majority attain Level 2c in core subjects at the end of KS1. To make expected progress by the end of KS2 they have to attain Level 4.

School 2: most children start school in line with or above national expectations. Progress in EYFS / KS1 is broadly good but not consistently so. A significant majority attain Level 2a in core subjects at the end of KS1. To make expected progress by the end of KS2 they have to attain Level 4.

So using the national 'expected progress' measure pupils in school 1 need to make two Levels progress, in school 2 they need to make just over one Level.

Of course APS progress will give a different picture, but it seems Ofsted is using two and three levels progress as the key indicator at KS2. (See Ofsted data dashboard and / or RaiseOnline.)

Brian's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 16:19

'Sorry Andy and Brian but I can’t see any validity in ‘triangulation’ used to moderate a judgement of a lesson inspection'

I agree. Triangulation isn't used in lesson observations. The data and pupils' work can be outstanding but the teacher will still be told that the lesson observed required improvement. That's the point I was trying to make in my comments about the impact of lesson judgements on individual teachers. Hence 'However the distinction I make is between the overall judgement on teaching and learning as an inspection outcome ....... and the impact of individual lesson observation judgements on individual teachers.'

Lesson observations during inspections are often joint ... inspector and head for example. Ofsted never seem to have been able to sort out why. I've heard HMI say it is a development opportunity for heads but I've also heard them say it's a validation of the head's judgements which means the school's own judgements over time are secure evidence. (Don't get me started on the flaws in that one). At the end of the day though, it's the inspector's twenty five minutes which is taken as the benchmark for judging the validity of the head's judgements.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 28/01/2014 - 00:35

Brian, I agree that the handbook is written to cover the overarching judgements under each section but feel nonetheless that if a school has the data available internally to demonstrate that a colleague whose lesson has been judged inadequate is indeed better than that, then, the HT should use that internal data (and I maintain that the handbook does not preclude this).

We are a little at variation regarding the number of lessons that are likely to be jointly observed. There is an offer (unwritten expectation) for the Head and senior leaders to undertake these but certainly no compunction. Additionally, the number of joint obs will invariably be affected by the size of the inspection team and SLT (e.g. during an inspection at a school I was working with last term out of an SLT of 5 only the HT + an AHT participated - they observed one each). The purpose of joint observations seem to be clear from the handbook:

33.The lead inspector should invite the headteacher or a senior member of staff to take part in joint lesson observations. After a joint observation, the inspector and headteacher or senior member of staff must discuss their views about the quality of teaching and learning they have observed. If the headteacher or senior member of staff offers a written record, the inspector should consider this. Any differences in the analysis of the lesson and the judgements should be explored. The joint observation and subsequent discussion will allow the inspector to engage in a professional dialogue with the headteacher or senior member of staff. It will also enable the inspector to:

assess the accuracy and quality of the school’s monitoring and evaluation of teaching
collect evidence in order to make specific recommendations about further improvements to teaching and learning
discuss the effectiveness of the school’s performance management arrangements and professional development programme for teaching staff
help the headteacher to understand the judgements inspectors are making on the quality of teaching and how it might be improved.

34.The lead inspector should be mindful not to overload the headteacher and/or senior member of staff. The number of joint observations will be at the discretion of the lead inspector.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 28/01/2014 - 01:01

Roger, I fear we are in the arena of agreeing to disagree over some of these issues:

1. With the scrapping of the Pre Inspection Briefing (PIB) document some time ago now the inference of predetermined outcomes had markedly diminished. Equally, with the tightening of the quality assurance process - ensuring the evidence forms contain sufficient evidence to robustly and fairly support the reports findings - then the spectre of pre-ordained outcomes is a ghost from the past.
2. The thrust of (1) above also lays the second ghost to rest regarding report outcomes being at the whim and fancy of the lead inspector.
3. The issue of gaming was substantially knocked on the head by the refocusing away from GNVQs and a number of BTECS, and the latest move regarding resits - which doesn't stop pupils resiting to gain their A*-C but focuses on what counts toward the tables - effectively stopped the gaming per se. The expansion to 8 x A*-C will also nail gaming via not entering pupils and seeking a broader educational outcome
4. As intemperate as some of MWs pronouncements have been there is absolutely nothing in the inspection handbook or subsidiary guidance about dress codes
5. Even in the halcyon days of the LEA it has to be said that the quality was as inconsistent as that asserted against Ofsted
6. To be candidly honest I do not perceive and never have perceived LEAs as being any more or less democratic than the government of the day - in each case we get what we vote for.

I do agree, and have mooted this on other threads, that there is scope to use lesson observations in a more targeted way (e.g. subjects in blue on the RoL).

A great deal has changed significantly since 2003 and I would urge you to download and muse over the handbook, subsidiary guidance (and subject inspection guidance for that matter).

We are also in agreement over the trojan horse issue relating to Gove driving further wedges in regarding different inspections regimes for non-associated independent schools and the rest; and for the latter to be extended to encompass free schools and academies. I have already commented on this and also raised the concern that some free schools sponsored by private schools (e.g. Etons' Holyport College) are being signed up to the fee paying associations which I fear is a precursor to them being treated as associated independent schools and inspected outside of Ofsted.

Brian's picture
Tue, 28/01/2014 - 08:14

As you say the handbook covers overarching judgements about teaching, even for individual teachers. However if an inspector sees a lesson, or rather a portion of a lesson, in which the pupil learning is inadequate then the feedback to the teacher will be that the lesson was inadequate. It may well be qualified with a comment that other evidence suggests that teaching and learning are normally better than that observed and indeed that the individual lesson is unlikely to negatively influence the inspection outcome. Doesn't stop a teacher feeling that their contribution to the inspection outcome was unhelpful.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 28/01/2014 - 17:26

Janet, as questionable as the need for MWs comment was it , as things always do, takes on a different light when put in full context. It is my understanding that the comment was made at the end of an interview which he concluded with a comments about the nasty comments made about him in a letter sent to him from an underperforming teacher at his last school whom MS had placed under close monitoring and supervision. This does not justify his comments but does make clear he wasn't saying it about teachers/staff rooms per se.

I can readily see and agree that Ofsted has been pulled hither and thither by the current SoS and in so doing muddied the waters regarding the organisations role. That said, from a personal perspective and having trawled through their website I would lean more toward inspection than regulatory and the former fits more logically with improvement.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 29/01/2014 - 11:24

According to the Guardian, Ofsted is to look again at its protocol of informing the DfE about schools being put into Special Measures before schools receive a draft of the inspection report. Heads have complained that academy brokers have been making offers they can't refuse before the heads have seen the reports. They felt, understandably, this was intimidation.

Ofsted's now said such actions undermine its independence.

Belatedly, Ofsted's doing the right thing. Ofsted reports are supposed to be confidential until published. If the DfE is sharing unpublished judgements with brokers then it's breaking the code of silence.

(No apologies for The Godfather references - clichès, I know - but they do seem to fit).

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 14:43

Andy - Ofsted have just promised unannounced inspections to check pupil discipline.

"They [Inspectors} will also speak directly to teachers and pupils to see how incidents of poor behaviour are addressed."

This clearly indicates a presumption that Ofsted favours some approaches to addressing poor behaviour rather than others. This suggests that my jeans and shirt sleeved teacher, Pete, would be in trouble as would his head, even if the behaviour of the pupils in his classes was impeccable. Presumably a pupil addressing the teacher was 'Pete' would be evidence enough of poor discipline. This surely implies that Ofsted expects a behaviourist regime of overt punishments and rewards and any school that used a different approach (however effective) would be in trouble.

It appears that inspectors must not favour particular teaching methods, but must have a uniform approach to requiring punishment/reward systems.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 16:39

Roger, I am afraid that I disagree with your presumptions on both counts.

MW made a statement a handful of weeks ago about some schools and teachers not dealing with behaviourally disruptive pupils; and low level disruption in particular. It was indicated at the time that he would consider no notice visits triggered by parental and/or other complaints about behaviour in a school.

I share Russell Hobby's concern but from a different perspective. Every school has its smattering of parents who snipe and bicker about how their child's issues are dealt with and how others bully and get away with everything, and my concern is that this will leave HTs open to parental bullying (e.g. if you [the HT] don't sort this I'll report you to Ofsted). That threat has been very real for many years but this new approach brings a new edge to it. But let us be clear, the new no notice visits will not be full section 5 inspections with a full team. They are most likely to be a single inspector whose focus will be behaviour.

The other side of the coin however is that this will also be an opportunity for:

1. Weak HTs to be supported in ensuring poor behaviour is dealt with
2. HTs and schools can put parental/pupil/staff complaints into perspective and to be frank shut the whingers up

In the same way that there is no Ofsted pedagogy neither are there prescriptive/ recommended behaviour policies or ranges of sanction. The latter is very different to the last government who pressured schools and LAs through edicts clamping down on all forms of exclusion. Indeed, and by no means in isolation, in 2007/8 Rotherham issued very strong guidance to its schools that there should be no PXs and every FX would be scrutinised within the School Effectiveness Service department.

Sadly, you appear to be bringing a large amount of personal opinion to bear packaged as presumption.

PS Before responding to your comment I trawled the Ofsted website and found nothing to do with Ofsted approved or recommended behaviour policies/strategies.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 17:00


This cites a section in Ofsted's annual report published in the autumn term

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 10:26

Andy - I agree with your concern about parents threatening heads with Ofsted if they don't like the way their child has been dealt with.

On your point about the Ofsted approach to school's behaviour policies, I concede that I could be wrong. However any head would be worried about policies that contradict the very clearly and strongly articulated views of the Chief Inspector. I think this at least in part accounts for the growing popularity of tariff based punishment/reward behaviour policies.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 12:44

Andy - Your point 3.

"3. The issue of gaming was substantially knocked on the head by the refocusing away from GNVQs and a number of BTECS, and the latest move regarding resits – which doesn’t stop pupils resiting to gain their A*-C but focuses on what counts toward the tables – effectively stopped the gaming per se. The expansion to 8 x A*-C will also nail gaming via not entering pupils and seeking a broader educational outcome."

I am afraid that your faith is misguided. New and even more damaging perverse incentives will emerge with consequent curriculum degradation, because it is still A*-Cs that will count.

This is what I wrote on my thread about school improvement based on A*-Cs in English and maths.

These were the maths grades as a percentage of the entry. A* 1.9%, A 12.6%, B 9.4%, C 50.9%, D 3.8%, E 6.9%, F 11.9%, G 2.5%

Almost 14 times as many pupils obtained a C grade than obtained D, but only about half as many pupils gained E than gained F. By comparing the school distribution with the national distribution it suggests that the extra C grades were gained at the expense of B and D grades and an excess of F grades. So what, you may ask? Surely this shows the school’s success in enabling its pupils to progress in Further and Higher Education and careers? But what about all those Fs that could have been Es and Ds? And what about all those Cs that could have been Bs?

What is happening now in maths will spread to all other GCSE subjects so exporting the sacrificing of the interests of sub C grade pupils to the rest of the curriculum. League table competition based on 'best 8' will result in the spreading of all the distortions and gaming that now apply to English and maths.

Competing commercial exam boards will be involved in another race to the bottom in respect of C grades and schools will have to cough up for examiner provided courses in eight GCSE subjects instead of two. KS3 will be abolished because GCSE 'best 8' subjects will be selected by the school for all pupils and GCSE syllabuses will begin to be taught from Y7. Pupils will be exposed to concepts that are beyond their general intellectual level at arbitrary ages and the 'best 8' subject syllabuses will be cherry picked so that comparatively easy C grade generating topics will be rote learned and revised to death. E, D and B grades will decline and C grades will be inflated across the entire curriculum not just in English and maths.

Now recruitment to AS courses in maths are taking a hit because GCSE C grade pupils are not up to the demands and the diminished number of B graders have been so turned off the subject by teaching and endlessly revising for a 'C' that they won't sign up for two more years of behaviourist misery. This will now happen in schools' 'best 8' subjects.

There will be more damage. 'Fringe' subjects in the arts and humanities will be crowed out of the curriculum because the 'best 8' will become so high stakes.

Worse still, the sub C grade hopeless cases will be identified earlier and earlier and drafted into 'alternative curriculum for plebs' in advance of transfer into full vocational streams at 14 either in the same schools or else in a proliferation of Baker's technical schools. Orwell will become even more restless in his grave.

And that's just for starters. There will be other perverse outcomes that I haven't thought of.

Marketisation destroys public services and schooling will be no exception.

Comprehensive education in terms of access to a full broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils up to 16 will be finally fully killed of.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 13:36

Andy - I was a too quick to concede you could be right about the role of Ofsted with regard to school behaviour policies.

I have seen BBC News announce that Gove has written to all schools instructing them to put in place 'old fashioned' punishment regimes including, would you believe, 'lines', early morning and Saturday detentions and 'community service' (eg compulsory litter picking in public places).

Doesn't this mean that tariff based 'punishment regimes' are now compulsory in state schools? Doesn't this also mean that Ofsted has to enforce government education policy?

I can see lots of trouble brewing here in the light of both this and Gove's intention to replace the Ofsted chair with someone that will be proactive in implementing his education policies.

I can't imagine the Chief Inspector's mood brightening in the light of this.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 13:39

Roger, my comments they were made in the guise of factual statements and were by no means indicative that I had any "faith" in the SoS's moves that could become "misguided". Like you I know only too well that given a set of parameters any organisation will do its damnedest to find a way around them to their advantage. Let me be plain, the culprit here is the league tabling and its underpinning arbitrary floor targets.

I would also venture that it is an accurate reflection of peoples views to say that most were against the EBacc chiefly because of its:

1. Arbitrary introduction
2. Wholly limiting nature straight jacketing all pupils into an academic (purely GCSE) channel
3. Explicit placement of GCSE as being superior to all other KS4 qualifications

The majority then rightly breathed a sigh of relief when SoS backed off from imposing the expected EBacc floor target.

I am a supporter of work related/vocational style qualifications provided they are robust and have integrity for FE/Apprenticeships/Employers. They are crucial for those pupils for whom academic GCSE pathways are either inappropriate or realistically inaccessible. It will come as no surprise then to read that by and large I welcomed the Wolf report (i.e. an attempt to sort the wheat from the chaff).

Gove and coy cannot have it both ways: either schools offer a broad and balanced curriculum that meets the need of all its learners or it doesn't and if it does then there has to be a balance between academic GCSEs and other qualifications.

All the time we have artificial tables and targets HTs et al will always find a way to manipulate the system.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 14:17

Andy - We will have to agree to differ about EBacc. The EBacc core seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable foundation for a broad and balanced secondary education. My problem with it is that less able pupils are not allowed to take it. They might as well go to pre-comprehensive Secondary Moderns.

The benefit of achieving GCSE levels of D rather than E or F, or E rather than G or F in English, maths, French, geography, science etc is considerable. Even more important is the opportunity for general cognitive development that studying 'proper' subjects provides, if taught in a developmental way.

Surely it is pupils with lower general cognitive ability that are in most need of this development and therefore access to the subjects and kind of teaching that can promote it.

I do not support any Pre-16 vocational exam courses because such 'training' does not develop general cognitive ability, so there are better things to do in the limited time available in KS4. The place for this is post-16 where better educated students will make better use of it.

Practical, vocational, economic and industrial implications of academic studies should be included in their teaching combined with as much direct observation and experience by pupils as possible.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 14:50

Roger, may I gently and respectfully suggest that we don't read anything into the recent (including today's) comments from DFE/Gove about behaviour:

"The education secretary's announcement does not involve new powers for teachers - Mr Gove is urging the use of existing sanctions available to schools, and there will be no need for new legislation.

He told BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "The one in three teachers who say they are uncertain, in polling, about the measures that they can deploy in order to keep order should be reassured by the government that they have a full range."

Mr Gove said action to tackle bad behaviour ranged from verbal reprimands "up to and including community service".

He added: "People need to understand that there are consequences if they break those rules and that teachers have the power to enforce them.""


Let us be honest behaviour is a perennial chestnut and has been lurking around the corridors of education for very long time e.g.: the last significant review and recommendations were made in the Steer Report in 2006:

I not seen or heard any report of Gove sending out a dictate or any description on behaviour or sanction. Yes, I have heard and read that he is sending/has sent out a letter to all HTs reminding them of strategies and what the law allows in terms of restraint. So I think it would be inappropriate to read things into the situation.

Moving to tariffs. This is by no means a new idea - they were discussed at the school I worked at in Portsmouth in 2002/4 and again in my deputy headship positions from 2004-11. We never adopted that approach. I have seen nothing from Gove, DFE or Ofsted pushing tariffs and as such suggest that there is no substance to support your interpretation. However, while working in London in the summer and autumn Iast year I became aware that some academies were operating such systems. The debate over whether a tariff based approach to behaviour is effective - or even tenable - would take up considerable time and effort and is not what is at the heart of this thread.

Based on the Ofsted annual report I believe that gist of what MW was targeting was:

1. Too much teacher and pupil time lost to poor behaviour which impacts on results
2. Too many schools (even if it is only 8%) are tolerating too much poor behaviour
3. Poor behaviour is (not the only but) a reason the profession is losing many of its new young teachers
4. Too many HTs don't adequately deal with behavioural issues
5. Too many seasoned colleagues cite poor behaviour as a reason for dissatisfaction

Thus in terms of what is available in the public domain I have found nothing to substantiate your personal concerns.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 14:57

"The EBacc core seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable foundation for a broad and balanced secondary education. My problem with it is that less able pupils are not allowed to take it. They might as well go to pre-comprehensive Secondary Moderns."

Yes, we will have to differ because I never said that EBacc could not or ought not to be part of a broad and balanced curriculum. What I said was that it should not have been - as Gove so evidently wanted - a straight jacket approach for all pupils irrespective of their abilities or needs. Neither should it - which most happily it wasn't made into - the curriculum of obligation at the expense of every other option.

Take care before you issue educational put downs and slights against secondary modern schools and ergo those who attended them. You never know who went to one!

Andy V's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 18:32

Belated it may be but any move to tangible Ofsted independence is welcome.

Conspiracy theorist I may be for what follows but this is somewhat of an interesting coincidence with this weekend's revelation about the decision to remove Baroness Morgan as Head of Ofsted:

To deepen my concerns associated with this story, I note that a prominent Labour Party Peeress has been heading up Ofsted during the worst of the Govian years and the parties new shadow Educ Secretary appears so clueless about redressing Govian damage. Does this mean that Labour are implicitly in support of what has happened?

Brian's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 19:15

Gove was very keen on The Andrew Marr Show to assert his view that the sacking of the chair of Ofsted wasn't political and that the new appointment would similarly be non-political. But interviewed about this issue yesterday Grant Shapps, Conservative Party Chairman, " We have to make sure that we have the right people in place to deliver government policy."

Maybe I'm missing the nuances of that reply completely but having someone in place as Chair of Ofsted who will 'deliver government policy' sounds to me like Ofsted being an arm of government policy and not independent at all. So either Gove was not entirely truthful or the education secretary and his party chairman could do with swapping thoughts from time to time. Or am I missing something obvious?


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