Dear DFE (I am so excited by the opportunity) I thought I’d set out my first 100 days in Office:
I am sorry… For too long the Chief Inspector of Ofsted has been used like some moral silver ball in the pinball machine of politics. I will no longer allow us to be part of the political game. I will listen to the leaders and teachers in schools up and down the country. I will listen to the teaching assistants, parents, governors, children and communities of schools. I promise I will never play parent against teacher, teacher against leader and leader against the system. I will always try to understand what it is like, despite the disadvantage the job brings, to be in a school, each and every day.
I will listen to our schools with these questions in mind:
What do we want our local schools to be and how will we ensure that the people delivering this can do it effectively to the highest standards… and with a smile?
In my initial months I will bring together a forum to regularly listen to the thoughts of the profession doing the job. Listening and then publicly responding in an honest fashion (By honest I do not mean confrontational), changing Ofsted policy when that voice is rational, strong and clearly felt by the vast majority. Parts of Ofsted are already doing this pretty well, via the myth busting and face to face meetings but the next step is to develop this so that it is engrained into our ethos at every level right to the very top.
Next, I would scrap grading altogether. You are either doing a good enough job or you are not. I believe that by ranking schools we have created even more pressure on the system, (Including the results of testing). Good is just that. By creating a good enough culture we free up schools to stop chasing narrow, perceived expectations and take control of their ambitions. Only when things are really black and white can ambitious professionals seize the day and dream big. The current system shackles too many schools to the fear of failure. When the margins are so close and 100% is only truly seen as success you create a false culture in schools. I believe many are failed by leaders who really believe this. I want to create a system where the schools are not aiming for success based on a one off test or couple of days inspection from a variable group of trained individuals. I want to create a system where leaders want to be better and strive to grow and develop from the best. In saying this I want us to grow to be an even better education system, one that develops in collaboration rather than competition. This is not to be mistaken with low expectations. I want all children to be brighter than the generation that teach them.
Once settled in I would do something controversial. I would begin to dismantle Ofsted piece by piece. This would be tough because I imagine that once inside you see things so much more differently and a certain love would develop. But, undeterred and with tears in my eyes, I would begin to implode the organisation.
I would do this in the name of educational wellbeing. I have heard about the teachers who are leaving the profession in gathering masses. I have heeded the national studies that put teachers as the second most stressed profession and teaching assistants at number 18. I have seen the rise of the culture within schools that put leaders and teachers in conflict, that confined the beauty of teaching to numerical output. I have seen the damage done; like a grizzled veteran, dazed and barley standing, in the final moment of battle, as the smoke drops and the explosions echo… I know that the carnage around me will never justify the outcome and I would drop the Ofsted standard. I would do this knowing that out of the ashes better things would come. The Phoenix rises and I believe it is time for Ofsted to rise up from its past. It is time for it to step out of the shadows of the DFE, independent, driven to improve and offering true advice and guidance. That’s where I see Ofsted could go. Ofsted have raised standards. Ofsted have bought focus to schools. Ofsted have given key aspects of learning real meaning. But Ofsted has also helped to create a climate of fear in our schools. We have bought mistrust and uncertainty in many good, honest and talented teachers and their schools. By focussing upon core elements Ofsted have erased softer, less easy to understand aspects of learning. Ofsted is better than this. We understand schools better than any of governmental organisation and when we finally show our true colours we will help build a system that fights for the rights of schools to be creative, ambitious and vibrant places.
Pardon? You want my Ofsted fob? My Ofsted tie!?!…Oh, I’ll get my coat.