An inspector calls?

Last week, the government announced their GCSE and A Level exam contingency plan, in case things go wrong again

Contingency plans confirmed for GCSEs, AS and A levelsGOV.UK
The government intends for exams to take place next summer. But if they cannot go ahead safely or fairly due to the pandemic, contingency arrangements will be in place to ensure that schools and colleges are well prepared to enable students to achieve their qualifications. Following a consultation, the department and qualifications regulator Ofqual have confirmed students would receive Teacher Assessed Grades based on a range of their work, similar to this summer.

… and released the necessary guidance.

Guidance for schools, colleges and other exam centres on contingency arrangements for students entering GCSEs, AS and A levels, the Advanced Extension Award and Project qualifications in summer 2022GOV.UK
Although the government is firmly committed to exams going ahead in summer 2022, we need to have contingency plans in place for the unlikely event that exams have to be cancelled again because of the pandemic. This guidance sets out what teachers should do during the remainder of the academic year 2021 to 2022, until exams are taken, as a contingency. It follows the outcome of a consultation on contingency arrangements.

This week, they’ve announced plans to speed up Ofsted inspections.

Ofsted accelerates inspections for schools and further education providersGOV.UK
This will mean parents and learners will get up-to-date assurance about the quality of education that their children or they are receiving. Schools, colleges and other FE providers will receive timely information to inform their improvement plans. Beginning with last term’s inspections, all schools and FE providers will be inspected at least once by summer 2025.

You can imagine how that went down.

Plan to speed up Ofsted inspections of schools in England sparks furyThe Guardian
“Government ministers are showing, yet again, that they have no understanding of the exhaustion and stress felt by teachers and leaders,” said Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union.

Nick Brook, the deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “Given the pressure schools are currently under and the recent calls to pause inspections this term, the announcement of more to come feels completely tone-deaf.” […]

Former school inspectors have added their voices to the growing disenchantment, among them Frank Norris, a former senior HMI with Ofsted, who expressed “deep concern”. “I’m based in the north and the pandemic has hit some of our communities the hardest. Schools have managed amazingly well and kept things rolling,” Norris said. “It is shameful that Ofsted inspectors apparently choose to give this crucial area of work little attention when they produce their inspection reports.”

Ofsted strips most ‘outstanding’ schools of top rating in first round of reportsEvening Standard
More than two in three schools previously judged as outstanding have been stripped of their top rating following Ofsted inspections in September, an analysis by PA news agency suggests. All schools previously judged by Ofsted as outstanding are no longer exempt from routine inspection.

Worrying about inspections is possibly the last things teachers need at the moment.

How to handle the student disrespect sweeping the countrySmart Classroom Management
Since returning to in-person learning, respect has taken a nosedive. Students are just different. We all see it. We all know it. The question is, what to do about it? Well, the usual keys are still in play: Clear Boundaries; 100% Consistency; Calm Enforcement. Keeping your cool regardless of what a student does or says, and doing what you say you’re going to do, are now more important than ever before. Fail on this front and the battles will be constant, the disrespect unrelenting. However, the time has come for something more.

“Reduced”?

Have I just been insulted by the head of Ofsted?

Spielman: Teachers ‘reduced to data managers’
Teachers have been reduced to “data managers” instead of “experts in their field”, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman will argue today. “I don’t know a single teacher who went into teaching to get the perfect Progress 8 score (a measure of pupil progress),” she will tell a schools conference in Newcastle this morning.

I see her point, though that’s unfortunate paraphrasing from TES. The Guardian’s version, after the speech actually took place, also has the line ‘reduced teachers to the status of “data managers”.’

Here’s the full, less patronising, quote, with no reduction to be seen.

Amanda Spielman speech to the SCHOOLS NorthEast summit
The bottom line is that we must make sure that we, as an inspectorate, complement rather than intensify performance data, because our curriculum research and a vast amount of sector feedback have told us that a focus on performance data is coming at the expense of what is taught in schools.

A new focus on substance should change that, bringing the inspection conversation back to the substance of young people’s learning and treating teachers like the experts in their field, not just data managers. I don’t know a single teacher who went into teaching to get the perfect progress 8 score. They go into it because they love what they teach and want children to love it too. That is where the inspection conversation should start and with the new framework, we have an opportunity to do just that.

And here’s another write-up, that doesn’t mention us data managers at all.

Spielman: Focus on substance over outcomes will help tackle workload
The chief inspector said she did not think there was an “appetite to revive the inspection model of 20 years ago”, but that the new framework, which will come into effect next September, will build on some of the “strengths” of the current system, “especially letting leaders tell their own story”.

“I also want to rebalance inspector time usage so that more time is spent on site, having those professional conversations with leaders and teachers, with less time away from schools and colleges in pre and post-inspection activity.”

Ofsted grades not fit for purpose?

A very interesting read about the need to move away from Ofsted grades.

Five reasons to ditch Ofsted grades
I reckon that in 50 years time, we will look back at the current Ofsted-grading era as one of the big educational blackspots of history. Serious educationalists and policy makers will laugh in knowing horror … at the extraordinary folly of a defunct inspection regime that involved sending a tiny team of people to schools they’d never been to before for a day or two to evaluate them against a massively long list of criteria and give them an overall one-word judgement. All of this while also projecting a national illusion that these judgements made by different people were fair, accurate, reliable and consistent across time and across the nation. And all of that alongside the delusion that this actually made for an ever-improving education system. Ho ho. […]

5. Every School Requires Improvement. Finally, isn’t this just the most obvious thing; all schools require improvement. Wouldn’t it just be so much better if we took all the labels off the reports, forced people to read them and left all schools with a record of their areas of strength and areas for development? Sure, we need a category for ‘below the line’ – and a separate process for dealing with urgent safeguarding failures – but even here I would argue that it should be called something that suggested maximum support was on its way, recognising the challenges at work – not the pejorative Jack Boots of ‘inadequate’ that just kicks everyone in the teeth.

Recreating Ofsted’s Inspection dashboards

Thoughts on managing variability: School’s own data in the Ofsted inspection data dashboard
“To try to overcome some of these issues while still presenting the data in a format very similar to the official dashboard I have thrown together a spreadsheet that emulates the Ofsted layout as much as I can (given Excel’s limitations).”

This looks like a really useful resource, but I think I’ll need a fair amount of time to get my head round it all.

Watching them, inspecting us

Watchsted – the latest Ofsted inspections
​”We created the inspections map for people to visualise the latest inspections schools, children’s centres and early years establishments all over the country. The map contains a simple view of each inspection’s summary grades and a quick link to the provider on the Ofsted website.”

And here’s another approach.

How I track Ofsted
“This is something I used to do for the LA and often end up doing for HTs when they ask me “what are Ofsted up to? Will we be next?”. Obviously we don’t really know who will “be next” but this method has proved to be fairly accurate so I thought it was worth sharing here.”​​​