I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom I can tell you I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills that I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you go now that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you…and I will blog.
Liam Neeson in Taken 4 (probably)
I have moved on. In short, earlier this year my school suffered a terrible Ofsted. At the helm was a bull-headed and bullying lead inspector who steered her team and drove forward, regardless of any evidence, a judgement that was as inaccurate as it was cruel. We fought it. The report was overturned and re-written. I complained. Numerous aspects of my complaint were upheld. That felt like closure. My school remained afloat and moving forward, but I was left feeling battered and bruised, to the point that I’ll happily take issue with any teacher who claims leaders are not on the ‘front line’ of education.
I have moved on but I can’t let go. I think the reason is because this lead inspector is a practising Head Teacher. I just can’t get my head around that. Why would a fellow Head go into a school that had improved so much over the last two years and seek to destroy it? Why would a fellow Head seem hell-bent on opposing the views of HMI, the local authority, the parents, the school itself and the fact that levels of achievement, for all children, had risen year on year? I just couldn’t understand why another professional wouldn’t play fair, favouring instead to discredit the achievements of a whole school and belittle the school in front of its community.
Like an itch you just have to scratch, I began to research her school. I wanted to know what her school was like. It must be something pretty special in order for her to have the chutzpah to give my moderately successful school such a ticking off. I was rather surprised, therefore, to see that achievement in her school had been steadily declining for the last three years, with the 2014 results hitting an all-time low of 64% of pupils achieving Level 4 in reading, writing and maths. When looking at the socio-economic context of her school, I learned that it is situated in a highly disadvantaged area, unlike mine, but our value added scores for 2014 were identical: 99.5 – both of our scores having dipped from the year before (hers for reading, mine for maths). And so, when I saw that she had been visited by Ofsted two months after me, I wondered if her team had been as unforgiving of her as she had of me.
Her report came out as good, with outstanding features. And, as far as I can tell from comparing our two reports, there had been some pretty conflicting messages communicated during our two inspections. Whereas she had clearly told me that because only 87% of pupils made expected progress in maths, we should consider ourselves inadequate; her team judged her dip, resulting in 85% of pupils making expected progress in reading, to be nothing more than a blip. Whereas her team then went on to judge her leadership to be outstanding because she knew about the dip and promised that it would never happen again, she categorically told me that I was inadequate for letting it happen in the first place and ‘over-optimistic’ and clueless because I suggested that it wasn’t going to happen again. Whereas her team praised her internal data that showed things were improving, she discredited mine, claiming it was bogus and that my predictions were ludicrously inflated.
Now I know that inspections are not based on data alone and that maybe during her inspection she showed that she was a highly effective leader, whereas I apparently showed myself to be a…what was it she called me? A man with his ‘head in the clouds’. Maybe in 2015 she would be proved right, justifying the praise and adoration outlined in her Ofsted report. But imagine my surprise when I clicked on this year’s performance tables and saw that her reading progress had, well, not exactly swelled, from 85% to 87%. Not only that, but her value added score has fallen to 98.1. As I say, I know it’s not all about the data, but doesn’t this contradict Ofsted’s judgement of her leadership? Does this not mean that her promises to rectify her ineffectiveness to raise standards of reading have ended up sounding rather hollow?
What will Ofsted do now? Will they return and question her as to how this happened on her watch? Again.
I know they will visit me again. I know that they will return to question this Head who has, according to the last report, ‘over-inflated’ opinions about the standards his school achieves. Maybe they will be confused as to how the outcomes we achieved in 2015 were almost identical to the ones I predicted we would get during the last inspection. Maybe they will wonder as to how this incompetent leader got any green on his Raise Online and achieved an above average value added score with results that placed his school in the top ten performing schools within the city? Maybe they will dismiss our three year 20% growth in achievement and complete close of the gap between our disadvantaged pupils and their peers as nothing more than a blip. A long, three-year blip. Who knows?
But back to this lead inspector. It was with some personal interest that, upon hearing the news that Ofsted were culling a large number of their inspectors as they were considered to be unfit for purpose, I enquired if my very own lead inspector would end up on the slagheap. To my dismay, I learned that she is still inspecting. Despite having had one of her inspection reports completely re-written due to the fact that it was proved to be highly inaccurate; despite the fact that her knowledge of data analysis was deeply flawed; despite the fact that she did in fact judge individual lessons; despite the fact that one of the complaints that was upheld, based on evidence provided by one of the additional inspectors, was about her bullying behaviour throughout the inspection; despite the fact that HMI found her evidence base to be lacking, in order for her to make the judgements she did; despite the fact that she mis-represented comments from the school’s senior leaders when writing up her report; despite the fact that she did not follow protocol during the final feedback meeting with the local authority; despite the fact that other schools have complained to the local press about her; despite the fact that she came into a school with a fixed agenda and stuck rigidly to it and despite the fact that she is not HMI accredited…she is still inspecting. I have been told that she will no longer lead inspections but she is still out thete.
Finally, and because, unlike her, I like to be thorough, I couldn’t help but click on her school’s website to see how she had presented her 2014 poor results to her community. At first I thought I had got the wrong school. Because, the results that were being publicised were not the same as the results on the performance tables. According to her, 83% of pupils achieved a level 4 in reading in 2014. And yet, according to the DfE only 71% did. A similar pattern occurs for all other subjects: she claims 95% achieved level 4 in maths when only 83% did; she claims 85% of pupils achieved level 4 in the grammar test and yet the DfE seem pretty certain only 67% did. Maybe her school results omit certain pupils that DfE hasn’t updated, or maybe she forgot to change the date on the website, or maybe these were her unvalidated 2015 results. But guess what? I checked. These are not her 2015 results, according to the DfE. Far from it. Sadly, I can’t actually check what she is claiming for this year’s results because her school’s website is currently under construction.
So why can’t I let go? Am I just bitter? Is it just sour grapes? Is this just a petty grudge?
I think schools have a right to know that rogue, unprofessional and incompetent inspectors are still out there. I think Ofsted should know that one of their own is a living breathing disgrace to their organisation. I think Ofsted should go back and question the claims made in a ‘good with outstanding features’ report when promises are not delivered. I think the professional community should know that when a Head is falsifying information on their website it is followed up and dealt with. I think the professional community should know that Ofsted does not give Heads who are also inspectors an easy ride when inspecting their schools. I think the professional community should know that inspectors who ride roughshod over the inspection framework get punished.
In short, I think we all deserve better than her.
When I know that, I’ll let it go.