Before headteacher Matt Middlemore became an Ofsted Inspector (OI), he thought working for Ofsted was "like sleeping with the enemy'. Matt was a silver award-winning Headteacher of the Year in 2016 for his work at Tregolls School in Truro. The school was South West Champion at the 2017 Pupil Premium Awards and he’s passionate about all children gaining a good education. So what prompted him to take up the challenge and why has he changed his mind?
"I decided to become an OI after taking on a school that was in special measures. There, during an inspection, I saw the inspector noticing things that I’d missed and I thought, ‘That was sharp,’ and wanted to learn more. A secondary reason was my frustration with people saying, ‘This is what Ofsted wants’.
"I used to receive up to 50 emails a day telling me what Ofsted wanted. As a naive young head, I didn’t understand that there’s a profit-making industry based on what people think Ofsted expects to see. I still get emails, but not as frequently.
"I currently carry out one full inspection and one or two short inspections a term.
"But first, of course, there was the training. The training to become an OI is not burdensome on your school because it’s delivered in blocks. It was, however, tough and rigorous, and it took me more than two years to complete. It was good continuous professional development (CPD) and I took it back and used it in school. It has saved the school money. I stopped paying to go on CPD courses because the majority of my CPD came through Ofsted training.
"For a start, I learned new management skills. I also learned to look beyond performance data to understand what "good" really looks like. My school’s inspection data looked poor on paper, but we were in one of the most challenging areas in the country. Inspector training helps you to learn to see beyond that. Some schools work in demanding conditions. Just because they haven't got amazing data, it doesn’t mean that they’re not an amazing school.
Reaping the benefits back at school
"Being able to identify good practice as an OI has sharpened my focus back at school. It has also brought benefits to the school and staff. My staff know that if I ask them to do something it's not just another bit of bureaucracy, it's a thought-through change in policy and something that needs doing. By sharing my learning and experiences, my senior leaders and middle leaders are all learning as well.
"You learn what good progress looks like – and it’s not what numbers are doing on a spreadsheet. Often staff feel overwhelmed because they think that Ofsted wants this and that. I know that’s not true and I can tell my staff.
"I’ve been really pleased about the quality of people I have worked with. I’ve collaborated with some excellent people. You continually learn from them and definitely develop your own practice. I would recommend it to anyone. I think becoming an OI is one of the best things I’ve ever done."
If you’re interested in becoming an OI, please visit our website.
A version of this interview appeared in Children and Young People Now on 30 January 2018