Outstanding, Good or Poor – Is the grading of your child’s school by OFSTED an accurate reflection of the quality it delivers?

Questions are being asked recently if the government is right in stating that “headteachers should not be informed before OFSTED inspectors visit a school.” It was the case that schools were informed many months in advance before an inspection was due so that they had plenty of time to prepare for an inspection.  The government is now moving to a position in which schools are not warned before inspectors turn up to inspect the school.

Are 1 in 4 headteachers hopeless?

This issue is being debated less than a month after the death of the former Chief Inspector of Education – Sir Chris Woodhead, and also after the current OFTED Chief – Mr Michael Wilshaw, has just said that up to 25% of headteachers are substandard. Sir Chris was equally loved and loathed by different people during his lifetime. Most parents loved him as they saw him as someone who was telling the truth by addressing the serious issues in the education system. Among teachers opinions are sharply divided, but one point that is clear is that teaching colleagues who liked him and who agreed with him that 115,000 teachers are incompetent, would not dare to show their affection for Sir Chris in the staffroom!  If the truth is to be told, the improvement that has occurred in examination results over the past couple of decades, should be credited largely to teachers. I’m sure most parents agree with me that the biggest factor in getting the most out of a student is the quality of teaching. A good teacher does really makes a significant difference. As adults whenever we think back to our school days, we always have a vivid memory of one or two teachers who have impressed us – and in many cases, who have inspired us greatly. I will speak more about good and bad teachers in my next blog.

How good is a good school?

The main topic of this article centres around the worthiness of schools’ inspection reports. It is common knowledge among those parents who are ultra-keen and who go to great lengths to research schools for their children that whenever you see a school with anything other than “outstanding” – you ought to run a mile. Many parents are saddened at having to send their children to a school in which the OFSTED report only says ‘good’. Do not even speak about schools in which the report says anything less than good as that is definitely a no-go area for almost every parent unless they can’t help it.  Now, is there a need for headteachers to be informed some weeks before a school is inspected? My answer is: No and No. The schools should not be told beforehand. The inspectors should just turn up and inspect the school without any prior notice whatsoever. Of course, if this is the norm and every school is treated fairly there should not be a problem with that system.

Undue stress created by imminent OFSTED inspection

It will reduce the enormous pressure and stress created for teaching and also management staff when an inspection is coming up.  If there is no prior notice, the standard under which the inspectors measure a school’s performance will perhaps be a little different. The inspection criteria will probably be less stringent but will certainly be a more accurate reflection of the standard of education that the school delivers year in year out.  This will be much fairer as opposed to months of anxiety by all teaching staff during which they are put under a lot of unnecessary pressure.  A good school is a good school and it teaches its students well all year round, maintains good discipline, keeps a good record and make the school a stimulating and pleasant environment in which teachers and student want to be in. No, schools should not be informed before they are inspected.

In my next blog, I will speak about how schools inspectors rate individual teachers at a school they inspect and I will explore its merit. Please watch this space!