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Ofsted: Broken Bureaucracy

The pressure of inspections is getting to Headteachers all around the UK

With the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, the world is waiting on the news that the virus is either a significant concern or a benign issue that can be weathered with good practice (such as wearing masks and using hand sanitiser [again]). This is obviously not great news for anybody, especially teachers and educators. The immense pressure brought onto them during the first wave of COVID-19 back in early 2020 is still felt almost 2 years, and now the re-emergence of the virus must bring back fraught memories. The last thing educators across the UK will want is to go back into lockdown again, the issues with learning from home were incredibly taxing on teachers and students alike. Just this week, schools are back to enforcing students from Year 7 and above to wear masks on school premises, an unenviable job. This has become an incredibly tense time for Headteachers in general, fighting the virus, as well as fighting unjust inspectors.

Ofsted, the governing body responsible for inspecting the condition of state schools across the country, has come under intense scrutiny as of late. Many headteachers are becoming increasingly vocal about unfair expectations, rude inspectors and nitpicking at issues that make no difference to the way a school is run. Headteachers up and down the country are on high alert, anticipating unforgiving inspectors ready to scrutinise everything and anything if the chance arises. This, coupled with a new COVID-19 variant, has thrown leaders of state schools through a loop.

The pressure is mounting, and experienced Leaders are choosing to leave the jobs they love because the weight of expectations has become insurmountable for some. Despite Headteachers planning accordingly to the inspection, with some having a 90-minute call before the inspection, they are still coming away with negative results and feel hard done by. Heads of schools are also mentioning that the Ofsted report fails to mention COVID-19 in any form, this is incredibly unjust and something that is giving people reason to not take Ofsted’s reports seriously. Parents and teachers across the country know full well that the impact lockdown had on education, in school and at home, is still being felt by millions. So with a new COVID-19 variant in circulation, can Ofsted inspectors be trusted to give an honest and in-depth report on a school? A lot of educators believe, no, Ofsted inspectors are now believed to be antagonists in some instances. Not actually caring about helping schools through constructive criticism, instead, choosing to take a more destructive and cynical approach. Professor Nick Megoran, of Newcastle University, described the approach many inspectors have as “move fast and break things”, an approach that may work in a Food Safety inspection but doesn’t mean much when reporting on the state of a school. Where did ‘nuance’ go?

Rather than being outstanding as an educational institute, a good Ofsted inspection is now chalked up to being prepared rather than actually being a very good school. That’s not how a governing body should operate. Nothing is gained from tormenting a headteacher into leaving their post. Constructive criticism is important to help schools learn, adjust and make amends. Helpful advice can push schools to evolve and become better, at the end of the day, it’s about the children and providing them with the best school experience possible for them. Some inspectors don’t have that as their modus operandi, which isn’t productive for anybody.
This problem is systemic and one that requires structural change, new training for inspectors and for Ofstead as a governing body to understand their faults. A great way to cushion the potential blow of a hostile Ofsted report can be to use soccialy to help support your school in recruiting and open day admissions. We can help provide you with brilliant teachers to help keep your students engaged, alongside providing you targeted open day campaigns to help bring relevant foot traffic to your school gates.