I don’t know what to do
I need a rendezvous
Computer love
Computer love

Kraftwerk

Other than worrying about a world war triggered via twitter by the fiery incompetence and lies of world ‘leaders’; this week I have been musing about the controversy of Ofsted Inspections prompted by algorithms based in the deepest and darkest chambers of the Death Star.

On Monday I was really excited because I was off to see Daisy Christodoulou and find out how Comparative Judgements work in practice. I left work early because I HATE being late… It’s one of my leadership quirks. I’m a pretty laid back head… but walk in to an SLT meeting two minutes late and you will get the flick of an ever so slightly annoyed stare. The traffic was terrible and I began to take side roads to try to make up time. Eventually, the air in my car blue with foul language, I turned around and went back to work. The next day I asked staff who went home that way how long it took them to get home.

‘It was pretty bad but we heard someone lost their life in a car crash. Puts it all in to perspective really…’

I felt as terrible as I should have. I was ashamed of my four letter tirade because I had missed a session that was very well documented on the internet and where there were numerous people who could give me personal testimonials…  We are so quick to express ourselves and embellish our own personal dramas without the full facts.

So, on to Ofsted who now, “…must do better with less.”

The title of the paper, ‘Methodology note: the risk assessment process for good and outstanding maintained schools and academies’ pretty much sets up the rest of the read. Ofsted talk about ‘supervised machine learning’ being used to determine which good or outstanding schools need to be inspected. As is its wont social media was not happy. Whereas, I wasn’t quite sure what the fuss was about. Surely, Ofsted had always used algorithms?  In fact, as schools we had been using them for years… Ours may have been a little less accurate of course:

“Well, there have been 15 inspections in Somerset since Jan… We’ll be done next month!”

“Oh, Barking Infants have been done… and they were done in 2013 one month before us! I guarantee we’ll be next Month!”

“See, Jean knows someone who works at TESCO’s who knows an inspector who has cancelled her holiday in May! We’ll get done in May! It’s ON!”

“Had my Cards read last night… Drew ‘The Ace of Swords’ … Ofsted this week, you mark my words!”

Everyone has been second guessing Ofsted and believing there was some great conspiracy of inspection for years. The fact that it all starts with mathematics makes me feel rather more secure. It clarifies quite a lot for me:

  1. Data is still key
  2. There’s an equality to this process (Though there is an argument for Equity – another blog)
  3. That Ofsted’s greatest criticism is in fact also its greatest strength… Inspectors coming in to your schools are the key ingredient in the process.

When I quit as a National Leader of Education it was because of the lack of human interaction. The only person I spoke to about the process was someone from Admin. I had to justify my ability to support head teachers via 1000 words based on 2016 data. Ofsted are not saying that. We will still see people in our schools and for me that is the most important part of the inspection process. That is what makes the difference.

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