In a recent post on the abolition of the Audit Commission, Colin Smith urged the Government to continue it's battle against box ticking by abolishing Ofsted.
At the very least it's school inspections should be drastically streamlined. For instance each schools is obliged to produce separate policy documents on:
Accessibility plan, Admissions policy, Annual report to parents (from governors), Attendance targets, Charging policy, Child protection policy, Collective worship policy, Complaints procedure, Curriculum policy, Exclusion of pupils, Freedom of information publication scheme, Governors’ allowances (schemes for paying) Performance management policy, Pupil discipline (including anti-bullying) policy, Race equality policy, Review of staffing structure document, Sex education policy, Special educational needs policy, Staff appraisal policy, Staff discipline conduct and grievance (procedures for addressing), Target setting for schools, Teachers’ pay policy.
No doubt each policy has to include all sorts of detailed points. What about the outcomes? For example, what about a school where bullying is rife due to weak teaching and a reluctance to exclude the culprits? Never mind there is a "Pupil discipline (including anti-bullying) policy" document correctly included in the paperwork. Tick.
I included Oftsted (as well as the Audit Commission) on my list of Quangos I thought the Government should take a hard look. But should Offsted be scrapped altogether?
Often schools judged by Ofsted to be "good" are really nothing of the kind if you read the small print
to discover what the standard of teaching is like. Even here the inspectors sometimes bring in their own ideological baggage. For instance objecting to didactic teaching as meaning pupils are "overdirected" rather than left to discover things for themselves. The notorious Ofsted judgment shortly before the death of Baby P that Haringey's Children's Services Department was "good" shows that Ofsted's judgement can not be relied upon.
Former Ofsted boss Chris Woodhead says in his book, A Desolation of Learning:
"I used to say when I was Chief Inspector that more often than not there was an inverse correlation between the volume of paperwork the school offered the inspectors and the quality of the teaching observed when the inspectors finally made it into the classroom."
Woodhead believes that from Ofsted has changed "from seeking to challenge the damaging orthodoxies of the education establishment" to becoming part of the establishment. Woodhead suggested a new Government should "think very hard about whether Ofsted is with its multi-million pound budget should continue."
On balance I think Ofsted is probably better than nothing. The quality of their reports vary along with the quality of their inspectors. But for many parents having a look at what they have to say about a school is useful to take into account even if they have to read between the lines.