I have huge respect for @HartfordSean as one twitter frequenter to another – in the same way as I did for @mcladingbowl. I still remember the day, like dark wisps, that Ofsted materialised on to twitter. It felt fresh and vibrant. They even replied to you! Ever since then they have shown to be strong advocates for debunking the Ofsted myths and trying to get the profession to calm down and see the reality rather than the perceived fears.
I am a National Leader of Education and before this for over 5 years a Local Leader of Education. I have spent much of my time over these years in other people’s schools supporting leadership. I have mentored over 40 heads. Even when frantically looking over my shoulder at my own school. And I have news – People are desperate Ofsted. I see drained and anxiety ridden teachers and I see head’s with panic tattooed across their faces. I now see this in every school I support and that was before we all read the Conservative manifesto. And in those eyes I see the Ofsted hanging rope reflected in their watery gaze. How did it come to this? I think I know because when I now look in the mirror I too can see the fear. I am tired. I run an amazing school and yet it is vulnerable to the rogue inspector (As @theprimaryhead illustrated in his last blog) but more terrifying I have a sense that whatever I do I will never be good enough now. Good enough people… good enough. Imagine my horror as I packed SATs this week and had to put down 9 (NINE!!!) B’s on the registers because of our Specialist Provision. That means if I get 100% of the mainstream children through (Not going to happen!) I will still only have 82% L4! I have spoken to everyone about this. No one seems to know what I can do, apart from take the data out myself (Or cheat and lie?). Mr Gove used the words Special Schools on two occasions in all his speeches during his legacy. So I know how valued Special Schools are. My Dash board is 4th Quartile; Raise on Line looks like the bottom half of the country after this election. I am staring up at the rope people and I am meant to be one of the successful heads.
This election has left a bitter taste and I cannot see how the Ofsted PR machine will come through it alongside the education profession. It seems that RI is the new inadequate and who will be the whipping machine? Ofsted! As all those RI heads are marched out of their schools, careers in tatters, to be put in stocks outside their old place of work and flogged (new minister of justices’ idea probably). It will be Ofsted we blame of course. We can blame Ofsted for quite a few things I feel. I was at conference this week (Special Schools) and down stairs to us was our county finance team. Someone told me that the cuts were now 36% in four years in real terms, whatever that meant I knew it was not good. “There’s more to come!” was the parting shout at I saw them all stand on their chairs and unwrap the dry rope. Ten minutes later I am listening to a colleague who runs an APC (Alternative Provision Centre) I was in awe of the work his team does with pupils who the system cannot hold on to and then he said this…
“Our building is falling apart and is so cramped that I now teach in the local COSTA, free wifi and a cup of coffee!”
I sat there numb. I then had to stop him to ensure I had heard right. I had… he also uses McDonalds.
So, as I prepare to meet @HartfordSean I cannot help but think I need Ofsted to be something else. I not only want them to change direction, but I want them to transform and become something productive which helps anchor education and enriches the professionals within it. I just cannot keep looking over my shoulder at a time when walls are crumbling and resilience is cracked. My neck hurts. It really does. In Richard Sennett’s brilliant The Craftsman he argues for the desire to do the job well for its own sake – pure competition will never produce good work.
“This is the crux of obsession: good and not-good-enough had become inseparable” The Craftsman Pg244
I am sure I will walk away saying, “I like that Mr Hartford…” I am convinced he has the desire as does his colleagues to make Ofsted work to better education. But will I go away sure Ofsted is navigating into new warmer waters? I really doubt it. If they get rid of grading schools then I might start to believe real change could come.