There have been many different incarnations of the school’s inspection service in recent times, each one repeating the mantra that they are trying to raise the standards of education across the country but each one taking on the persona of a twisted member of your family.
An early framework resembled an inevitable visit from your weird distant Aunty at Christmas. They gave you weeks and weeks to get ready and then stayed with you longer than necessary leaving you a gibbering wreck at the end of their stay and unable to work out what life was like before they had crashed into your world.
Then they changed and decided to only give you a week’s notice whereupon they would turn up like a drunken Uncle: eating your staff room out of cake and biscuits and upsetting everyone in a staggeringly brief amount of time before pissing off to the next relative he hates.
Then Ofsted turned into your Mum who after her divorce had decided to read too many self-help books. This Ofsted preferred to listen and get you to come up with all the answers whereupon they would either nod and agree or look at you with a raised eyebrow until you said something else that they did agree with.
And then Ofsted became your scary psychopathic younger cousin: You would open the door to your office to find them sitting in your chair asking you how they had managed to get in. Unable to answer (because they had actually climbed through your window using a diamond cutter in the middle of the night), they would laugh manically and order you off the premises.
This current incarnation is like your strict Grandfather who insists on making you stronger through unfairness. ‘Whatcha wanna use oven gloves for boy? Use your bare hands, toughen that skin up.’ ‘Milk teeth is for girls and fairies, pull ‘em out boy’ ‘No Grandson of mine is gonna be satisfactory, you’re either good….or good for nothing.’
And like that Ofsted has decided that teachers and schools were getting it too easy with ‘satisfactory’. Too many staff rooms were full of smirking teachers revelling in their satisfactory-ness, willingly not being good, the lazy bastards! I mean those of you that have ever been told a lesson you did was satisfactory that will know ‘being satisfactory’ is only a slightly less soul destroying experience than having your entire friends and family look at your naked body and mark in red pen the bits that are repellent to all and sundry. It is not something anyone in education aspires to be.
Secretly I kind of don’t mind the ‘requires improvement’ judgement. It has in it the opportunity for constructive action and by not having statements that link with a satisfactory judgement it shows that it could be a bespoke set of prompts for the individual to zone in on. But Gove and Wilshaw don’t seem willing to present it that way; instead they favour the ‘stop moaning and get on with it’ approach. ‘If you’re crap get better or get out.’ ‘If you’re ok, you’re still quite close to crap so get on with it.’ ‘If you’re good, you’re only one step away from awful so get on with it.’ ‘You’re outstanding? Oh, would you like to be an academy?’ It’s almost as if they want to scare and demoralise teachers but surely they wouldn’t have got the job if that was the case?
So when I stop being @theprimaryhead and become @theofstedinspector what member of your family would I represent? I would be like your new foster parent. I am genuinely interested in recognising how good you are and in finding out how you would like to get better. I would let you know I was coming and I would meet you before I visited for a good old chat: and together we would devise a timetable. Obviously, there are some ground rules: I’ve got to check the quality of planning, teaching, marking and assessing and check the children and parents are happy…but you know that. Then I would come and stay for a week, maybe two. I wouldn’t leave until I felt I had a really good grasp of your school and where you were taking it. Then I would leave but not without agreeing on a return date so I could check on how you’re doing. If I gave you a ‘requires improvement’ judgement I would make sure I supported you in working out how to improve effectively. Why? Because you’re part of my family now and I care.