10 Dec 2014
It sometimes feels as if schools are seen as a vehicle for organisations to pursue their own agendas. Not just politicians - whom we would expect to use education (or health or whatever) to pursue their ideologies - but anyone and everyone.
A few examples:
- Engineer shortage: more primary school science
- Low social mobility: pay schools to take more FSM pupils
- Low levels of voter turn out: increase citizenship teaching
- Each charity's individual aims: cover them in the curriculum
- Obesity epidemic: improve school meals
- And so on.
Some of these are very worthy - after all, what are schools for if not to support the economy? But sometimes it starts to feel rather crowded and schools can only do so much. The problem is enhanced when these initiatives find their way into the Ofsted framework, which results in yet more pressure to jump through even more hoops.
So schools probably won't have been falling over themselves to complain that Ofsted have removed “consider the food on offer at the school and atmosphere of the school canteen” from inspection guidance, for example. If they want to do so, they have just missed the deadline for consultation on the new Ofsted framework.
In case you missed the chance to read the suggestions for changing the framework, the main difference is that assessment gets a bigger focus. Our summary of the changes is here.
The consultation asks for feedback on ideas - as usual in these things - but there is no forum for all these organisations (exemplified above) to lobby collectively. There are many, many stakeholders for Ofsted inspections - ostensibly they are for parents, but that's only the outputs at establishment level - while Ofsted monitors whether what goes in schools is fit for purpose, there seems to be very little input into what should be monitored. It would be good if Ofsted could have the equivalent of school development planning: consult stakeholders, consider where they need to get to in the next three years and then prioritising.
Many stakeholders feel that Ofsted hasn't really kept pace with changes in schools - and this has contributed to the perception that secondary school improvement has stalled: schools have moved on, but Ofsted hasn't, perhaps. It may be time for Michael Wilshaw to do so.
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