Welcome to the upside-down.

The Upside Down is an alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human world. It contains the same locations and infrastructure as the human world, but it is much darker, colder and obscured by an omnipresent fog.

[Stranger Things Wiki]

I hope Amanda Spielman wasn’t on Twitter this weekend. I mean, if she’s irritated by all those Headteachers’ blogs that ‘spin up levels of anxiety’ about Ofsted, she really wouldn’t have found #OfstedSongs very funny.

Thinking about it, I think it was a bit churlish for the Chief to have a pop at blogs about Ofsted. I would have thought she’d approve of such things: a singular viewpoint based on a narrow set of experiences gathered over a limited time-frame…isn’t that the original template for the inspection handbook?

Poor old Ofsted. Having to put up with a Colossus of Heads, all chomping at the bit to put the boot in, via their intergalactic blogs. About time someone had a word. I would like to offer a timid riposte, if I may? I don’t think any Headteacher, by sharing their reality of Ofsted, should be accused of ‘spin’. If it was spin, then surely they could be asked to change the content so that it was more in line with the truth. Couldn’t Ofsted, if they felt so aggrieved, complete a factual accuracy check on these blogs?

No blog about Ofsted, that I have read, could be accused of being an unwarranted scare-story. They are sometimes painful to read. But they are often Headteachers articulating their own difficulties with the Ofsted process. I think this is fair enough. Whether they are responding to personal experiences, or, sharing concerns about the known (or unknown) elements of inspection, they are still valid voices. They deserve to be heard – by educators and inspectors – so that Ofsted can evolve.

I agree with Ms Spielman when she talks about those school leaders who have become too focused on Ofsted ratings. A leader’s job is to do what is right for the school because…well, just because! I can’t think of a single decent decision that could be made to please Ofsted that would also guarantee school improvement.

  • Hastily putting up those British Values posters that you bought online…No.
  • Requiring teachers to formally respond to pupils’ responses to teachers’ feedback…Not a chance.
  • Over-aiding Y6 SATS…Nice try.
  • Inventing a progress point system that replicates levels…Dude, just follow @jpembroke already!
  • Buying in a truckload of ‘verbal feedback given’ stamps…That’s sooooo last framework.
  • Forcing staff to have mindfulness staff meetings to support their well-being…Your teachers will destroy you in the Ofsted staff questionnaire.

But these aren’t Heads who are spreading anxiety about Ofsted…they’re just poor leaders who will, most likely, be the ones who are soon bleating about staff retention problems.

So, yes: GO SPIELMAN! Do whatever you can to make sure that Ofsted is not the limit of leaders’ aspirations. But when it comes to uncomfortable blogs about Ofsted, please recognise that it’s you that must change. It’s not the fault of bloggers that, for some leaders, Ofsted dominates their world and causes them to wonder if that’s all there is to headship. That fault lies with you, your predecessors, and your team of Inspectors.

My advice would be to learn from the blogs that seem to be causing you so much pain. Engage with the Heads who are writing them. Don’t dismiss them as spook stories set in an upside-down reality where Ofsted is the ever-lurking Demogorgon. These Heads are writing chapters in the book of your legacy. Just as you should rightly celebrate those blogs that say ‘Ofsted was really positive for us’ you must also take seriously those that call out your failures.

Speaking for myself, I don’t do anything for Ofsted. Not a darn thing. I try to be an effective Head and do my best not to think about you. I consider you to be nothing more than a brief encounter. I hope, when it next happens, it will be fair, without fear and favour. But I’ll be ready if it isn’t. If needs be, I will venture down, into the dark underbelly of the Ofsted upside-down, and I will drag you back up into the light and hold you aloft for all to see.

Listening to you, and Sean Harford, I’m sure that won’t happen. Logic says that if I do what is right by my school then Ofsted will do right by me. That is something that Ofsted and I agree on. So, come on Amanda, let’s lighten up, put on some #OfstedMusic, and dance!