Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ofsted Not Fit for Purpose?

Oh honestly, will yet more Ofsted inspections really make the difference to failing schools? From an outsider's perspective, the utter uselessness and irrelevance of Ofsted reports seems starkly obvious. For example, our local secondary school receives good to glowing reports, and yet whenever I speak to anyone about what goes on in that place, frankly if you had any sense you would run as hard as you possibly could in the opposite direction.

The latest news on this front: a neighbouring mum recently went to look round the place with a view to sending her 11 year old there next year. As soon as she walked in through the school gates, she was confronted by a huge fight between a large number of 15 year old boys and girls. She described it as a serious fight, proper punches being thrown - horrifyingly violent. She sought out the nearest teacher and asked her about what was happening. The teacher seemed unperturbed, and simply said "Well, boys will be boys".

Once inside the headmaster's office, this by now rather concerned parent looked up from the conversation about the good Ofsted report to see a boy being helped past the window, holding an ice-pack to his head with blood streaming out from under it down the side of his face.

Only a couple of minutes later, her conversation with the headmaster was drowned out by a huge ruckus emanating from the corridor. An adult appeared to be screaming at the top of his lungs at a child.

"That doesn't sound like a good way to deal with the situation" said very concerned parent.

"Well, the teacher will have taken the child out of the classroom in order to speak to him" replied the headmaster.

"But we can still hear it through a closed door, so I suppose the class will also be able to hear it" braved very, very concerned parent, whilst not daring to say "and anyhow, I don't want anyone speaking to anyone anywhere like that. This is not how I want to raise my child."

That family is going to fork out for a small private school, which will probably be a sensible outcome for that particular child, but you pity all the others who have to put up with this horror.

From an outsider's perspective, you wonder at how schools get away with it. We've heard it said that when heads realise that Ofsted are coming, they phone for taxis to come and take the most troublesome pupils away, but even if this is true, the disconnect between the reality and the reports still seems to this outsider to be gobsmackingly huge! If Ofsted are either oblivious to, or refuse to acknowledge the reality of the situation, there is little hope that their inspections will make the slightest bit of difference to troubled schools.

UPDATE: John Bald, an ex-school inspector, sheds some light on this subject.


Anonymous said...

'how schools get away with it'?...how about how parents get away with it, taking their children away from their peers and 'educating' them at home...not really a good idea even if the parent is a trained teacher. Pity the poor child, lonely, socially maladjusted, unable to access children's culture which is rich and impenetrable to grown ups.. which is as it should be. In my opinion you're only storing up immense trouble for yourself later when your children decide that mum and dad might not after all have all the answers. What will fill the void left when they realise this? good luck with home educating, you're going to need it!

Carlotta said...

Hi Anon,

The thing is, the HE children we know of are so far from lonely and maladjusted that it would pay for you to investigate the situation a little before you assume that this is the case.

HE parents are very aware of the issue of socialisation and make absolutely sure this is not a problem. For example, they usually attend some of the many hundreds of HE groups that run throughout the UK.

Most HE children know the school children in their neighbourhood and attend after-school classes and activities.

My own HE children have loads of close friendships and because they are not constrained by school hours, can afford to spend much, much more time with other children, undisturbed by adult requirements, than any school child I know.

As a schooled individual, I know that my children access far more of this special child-filled space than I ever had a chance to do.

And more than most children, mine are aware that mum and dad certainly do not have all the answers, and they seek out information from loads of other sources. They attend classes, they use other adults and children informally, they use the internet, they read for themselves!

And because we work consensually, there is no need for a firm all-knowing authoritarian hand and they never therefore make the error of imagining any adult infallible!

Your assumptions are sadly commonplace but are wrong and I hope I can convince you of this fact.

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