Can the Iron Throne of Ofsted really rule the Bureaucracy? I hope so

21st February 2014 at 09:53

After Tuesday's meeting with Mike Cladingbowl at Ofsted HQ, there's been a heartening and almost surprising reaction from teachers on the social networks. Ofsted, traditionally the piñata of educational discourse, finally got some positive press. The reason? Nothing more outré than simply reaching out to the teaching profession and talking to us. Previously I described Ofsted as a combine harvester, mowing down mice and men alike. Now, at least, the iron reaper has a voicemail and a plate of biscuits. For the first time I can remember, people weren't incandescent with irritation and frustration at something Ofsted had done. Much of the praise can go to Mike Cladingbowl for having the decency and nous to realise that without such a parley, the already burning bridges between the inspector and the inspected would crumble into ashes.


One of the most important clarifications we discussed was that Ofsted inspectors should not be grading individual lessons; shouldn't be communicating these tainted grades to teachers; shouldn't be making teaching judgements based on paltry 20-minute biopsies. It's been guidance for some time, but the messenger owls must have got lost, because not a lot of people seemed to know that.


Including some Ofsted inspectors, it seems. I put a simple question out on Twitter yesterday:



And in minutes I already had my answer:



Anomalies? Alas not. The responses kept coming:




And on and on and on. It would be redundant to feature them all, but scroll back my timeline if you're extraordinarily bored, and you will hear such tales of woe. Whatever the prescription is from the Iron Throne of Ofsted, the Wildlings on the ground still worship the Old Gods, it seems. An organisation whose instructions are not followed could rightly be judged to be a failed institution. A lot rides on this. As Old Andrew has pointed out with forensic precision and canine obsession, all the reform in the world won't amount to a Hill of Beans if the inspectors bite their thumbs at their masters. And even the talents of such undoubted players as Wilshaw and Cladingbowl will be dashed against the cliff face of bureaucracy.


But I hope not. The will at the top appears to be there; there is an appetite for working with the teaching profession, not solely against. Ofsted must always wield a lash, but not only a lash; a lead, perhaps. Maybe even a lamp. Time will tell.