The Independent’s Richard Garner wrote a fascinating article on an OFSTED Inspector. (full article below)

Reading this earlier today created a variety of thoughts and observation.

1) Mr Sheridan seems to disagree with Sir Michael Wilshaw.

Earlier this month Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw was at pains to argue that teaching was not stressful. Mr Sheridan, an ex Headteacher describes an inspection in his own words as “terrifying”

2) Mr Sheridan admits to viewing parents comments before going on a visit. 

Before visiting a school he goes online to find comments from the schools parents. I’m all for involving parents but the timing is critical. Even the most impartial person is going to be swayed by comments before they see things for themselves.

Surely the views of parents should be looked at during the visit, to allow those comments to reinforce what the inspectors have found out about the school, good or bad, and to allow the Head to discuss any issues highlighted by parents. It is interesting that the website mentioned, Parent View, is an Ofsted in-house site and has no process to verify that any comment posted is either a) by a parent at the school or b) has any validity.

It seems strange that an inspector admits that these views are looked at before the real evidence is collected.

3) Mr Sheridan admits they’re not making judgements on individual teachers.

He admits that “we’re not making judgements about individual teachers. It would be madness to do that in a 20-minute slot” but then goes on t show a level of impartiality and quantifies it with a negative view of the profession saying “Teaching a satisfactory lesson for 25 minutes doesn’t make you a satisfactory teacher.” So even if they see something they like in a lesson it doesn’t mean that you’re a good teacher!

I agree that a 20 minute snapshot shows absolutely nothing, this 20 minutes is only about 1.2% of a teachers week, or 0.02% of the year. Imagine an appraisal system that looks at 2o minutes of your year and makes a summation of you.

Link that in with comments Ofsted then release such as ,”teaching is no better than satisfactory in 50 per cent of secondary schools and 43 per cent of primaries.”

Again this is the language of pre defined negativity. Do we live in a world where everyone in their job is outstanding?

When I go to a restaurant I hope that the experience meets all my demands and requirements, which is the definition of satisfactory!

4) The language of negativity of Ofsted.

There seems to be a predisposition of negative language. It is interesting to look at the evidence form that Ofsted uses in state schools and in independent schools. In the form for the independent teacher there is a large box for the Inspector to find evidence of  “any particular evaluations related to being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution, achieving economic well-being”  the form for the teacher in the state sector it is “behaviour and safety of pupils” 

Surely teaching is teaching, irrespective of the wealth of the child’s parents?

Article by Richard Garner.

They stalk the corridors of schools, striking fear into the hearts of even the most senior teachers. They are the Ofsted school inspectors – but until now their voice has seldom been heard.

In a rare interview, one of the education standards watchdog’s most senior inspectors has given The Independent an insight into the nature of his work, which under the regime of new head Sir Michael Wilshaw is about to become a whole lot tougher for schools.

As a former primary school headteacher, Mike Sheridan can speak with the voice of experience about the impact an Ofsted inspection can have on staff. “It’s quite terrifying,” he admits. A poacher-turned-gamekeeper, he now heads one of the watchdog’s teams and can carry out anything up to 33 inspections each term.

He immediately rejects the image often put forward at teachers’ union conferences of Ofsted acting as “bully boys” bringing a reign of terror to schools. The inspection, he says, will usually start with a telephone call to the headteacher 48 hours ahead. With a day to go, he contacts them directly.

“We’ll go through the data on the school and make sure everything is as accurate as we think it is,” he says. “Hopefully the headteacher will be able to challenge anything that could be wrong.” They then go through the issues that need to be looked at when the inspection starts.

But before he heads for the school gates, he goes online to search for candid comments by parents – usually focusing on the controversial forum ParentView, where mums and dads can post comments anonymously about their child’s school.

The website has angered teachers, who claim there is no accountability – or even any way of telling if the user is really a parent at all. They claim that ParentView, and other sites like it, are open to abuse by people with an axe to grind. But for an Ofsted inspector it is a useful guide to the problems they may encounter on their visit.

When he arrives at the school, he immediately gives out 100 questionnaires to pupils (parents are often sent these ahead of time too). The children’s comments are not treated as gospel, but the survey almost always earns a 100 per cent response. “The information can be quite telling,” Mr Sheridan says. “You get some traits in there which lead to interesting discussions. Parents’ views are taken very seriously.”

He will then schedule a meeting with the teaching staff. “It is a very stressful time for schools, and we know that, and we do everything we can to make it as simple as possible,” he says. “When I was a headteacher, you had six weeks’ warning of an inspection – I can remember waiting by the telephone when you thought it was about time you were going to get the call.”

He continues: “The teaching profession is a real mixture of people. Most teachers – almost all teachers – are incredibly passionate about what they do. They are working incredibly hard and they do deliver – not all do it absolutely right, though.

“What I say is that when we’re making judgements about teaching and learning, we’re not making judgements about individual teachers. It would be madness to do that in a 20-minute slot. Teaching a satisfactory lesson for 25 minutes doesn’t make you a satisfactory teacher.”

Mr Sheridan is not alone in making the transfer from teaching to inspecting. The majority of full-time inspectors, or HMIs, have been heads or senior managers of schools, or have worked in senior positions within local education authorities.

About 40 per cent of inspectors, who are recruited from all walks of life and were once dubbed by teachers’ leaders “the butchers, the bakers and candlestick makers”, are still teaching. One in five are heads.

During the course of the day, Mr Sheridan will make six or seven lesson observations, before returning the next day to complete the inspection. Almost all the teachers will be observed at some point.

He will then withdraw with his team and spend anything up to an hour and a half talking through their judgements with the head, who can challenge the findings – an important process, he says, as it “adds to the transparency of the inspection”.

In the five years since he joined Ofsted, Mr Sheridan cannot recall any of his team’s judgements being challenged by a school. But the inspection system is braced for major change, with Sir Michael Wilshaw due to unveil his blueprint for the future in the next couple of weeks.

His controversial proposals include the introduction of “no notice” inspections, replacing the “satisfactory” rating with “requires improvement”, and failing schools which fail to lift themselves out of that category within three inspections.

In effect, the new regime states that if you are not a good school you could be on the road to failure. It will also place restrictions on the number of schools rated as “outstanding”, making it more difficult to qualify.

Ofsted, Mr Sheridan says, has to work “without fear or favour”. But will that be possible under the new regime? “We have ways of making things work,” he says. “Whatever comes out of the consultation we will work with it.”

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