A few Sundays ago at the heady hour of 8pm I joined the regular #SLTchat on twitter, which, you may know, is for both teachers and leaders. Organisations or individuals take it in turns to host it and this time I was doing the honours on behalf of Ofsted.
Anyone can suggest topics to discuss and members vote on their favourites. That weekend, the top topic (getting 285 votes) was: How can we avoid Ofsted making extra work for teachers?
Of course, I was very keen to hear thoughts on this. Some felt that inspectors’ approaches can still be too variable and others voiced that Ofsted needs to be very clear about how we communicate requirements. I take both these issues very seriously.
First of all, we spend considerable time and effort not just producing guidance for all inspectors and regularly training them but also by quality assuring every inspection. So consistency in our approach to inspection is indeed crucial.
On the second point, our school inspection handbook gives clear guidance about the processes before, during and after the inspection. It also includes the evaluation criteria and the kinds of evidence and activities that inspectors use to make the graded judgements. I’m still rather surprised when some teachers tell us that they’ve never seen the handbook!
We’ve also been doing a fair bit of work highlighting our mythbuster document and producing #OfstedMyths films, which clarify what inspectors don’t expect – I hope some of you have managed to see these and please do share with your colleagues.
It was reassuring, however, to hear many agreeing that it is for leaders “to have confidence in their school, and not use Ofsted to instill fear in teachers”. As @VPDearne said, “If we’re doing things for the children and driving our ethos and values there’s no extra needed when Ofsted have visited”. I absolutely agree.
There were also positive exchanges about inspection experience. Some said that it’s “a shared process” and “a collaboration and two-way discussion”. There were also comments that inspectors were “human” and “normal people with experience of school life”. I was glad to hear that. In fact, last week’s TES ran an article from a secondary school head, who shared her good experience of the inspection process – it was an encouraging read. That said, I am in no way complacent, and understand that this needs to be the experience of every school.
It’s great to see so much interest and enthusiasm for twitter chats – #SLTchat even started trending across the UK that Sunday. For those who are interested, here’s a quick roundup of the discussion on our Storify channel.
In future, I look forward to even more debate and genuine reflection by school leaders, and indeed teachers, on how we can provide the best possible standards of education to our children and young people while keeping an eye on teacher workload.
I’ve recently written a blog about Ofsted’s commitment to reducing teacher workload on the DfE blogsite – please do spare a few minutes to read it.