An inspector calls: A conversation about the Ofsted guidance on behaviour
I had an interesting conversation on Twitter a few nights ago, and I like to bring you interesting things.
After my last post, on what I saw as damaging Ofsted guidance on behaviour and exclusions, I had the pleasure of talking to David Brown, a lead inspector, about the issues that I raised. It was perfectly civil and David put his case across lucidly and with patience. I've screen-grabbed it above, because I think that it represents a fair response and also puts across the inspector's point of view, something that is rarely heard on social networks. Frankly, if I were an inspector, I'd probably keep clear of the chatrooms too.
The transcript of the conversation follows below; I've made some observations at the end.
@DavidBrownHMI: Re exclusions/attendance data: I would assume/trust that the school would explain the context of this data to the team
@tombennett71: That’s cold comfort if the team view high rates as a proxy for poor management
@DavidBrownHMI: That was my point; can the context of the data justify the ‘high rates’ to the inspection team?
@tombennett71: It doesn’t get that far- schools pre-emptively fail to exclude
@DavidBrownHMI: Well that is their choice - the school may then need to justify how that decision helps the progress of (all) pupils.
@tombennett71: By which point it’s too late- the school culture has tilted towards appeasement, and disguising it is easy for inspection
@tombennett71: It’s killing good behaviour systems: low exclusions are an indicator, not an intrinsic good
@DavidBrownHMI: Yes, which takes me back to my first reply! So how can this situation be avoided?
@tombennett71: By removing guidance that equates high rates with ‘not good behaviour overall’. It has enormous impact on how schools exclude
@DavidBrownHMI: But in some cases, and particularly over a long period, that link may well be correct. Another reason why insp talk to pupils.
@tombennett71: True, but that link shouldn’t be assumed, and the guidance encourages that assumption. High rates often necessary
@DavidBrownHMI: ‘High numbers of exclusions....... are likely to indicate ineffective.......’ the key word is ineffective 1/2
@tombennett71: Schools read this and automatically think, ‘Don’t exclude’. Your point valid, but solving it this way creates bigger problems
@tombennett71: Also, IME pupils usually chosen by school
@DavidBrownHMI: That point I would disagree with; inspectors often select pupils and there are also many opps for less formal discussions.
@tombennett71: I’ve seen that, certainly- I’ve also seen carefully selected representatives. That needs to stop
@DavidBrownHMI: Yes, but there are other times when it is possible to have less ‘formal’ discussions with pupils (and staff).
@tombennett71: In two day with a couple of inspectors, that’s a tall order. Surprise inspections far better at least
@DavidBrownHMI: I always do this in any inspection I lead, and expect any team members to do the same - it is important evidence!
@tombennett71: I see schools with terrible behaviour get good grades very frequently, because everyone puts their faces on
@DavidBrownHMI: Shouldn’t happen, but what can I say if you have seen very frequently. Pupils and parents are (usually?) honest when asked.
@tombennett71: I know majority of insps do their best, but without anonymity of interviewee, plus surprise, hard to see it being honest
@DavidBrownHMI: Informal disussions are anonymous, and remember that Ofsted will now inspect without notice if poor behaviour is identified.
@stevejodwin But life wld have to be unbearable for a tchr to blow the whistle as spec measures is a horrendous reward 4 it
@DavidBrownHMI: But not pupils! And how bad would behaviour have to be for it to be only reason for SM? I doubt would be missed.
@stevejodwin: But even getting a 3 is a nightmare & not worth washing dirty linen in public. As 4 ppls,I’m not sure they 1/2
@stevejodwin: 2/2 are 100% aware of nuances and schl wide issues of behaviour.
@DavidBrownHMI: But you did say SM :). How would such poor behavior be missed in lesson observations?
@stevejodwin: All the things @tombennett71 mentions in blog eg a 2 day walking on eggs escapade with everyone out on patrol,not typical etc
@DavidBrownHMI: ‘everyone out on patrol...........’ in lessons? I refer again to discussions with pupils and parents.
@stevejodwin: Key kids bribed,threatened,coerced,cajoled, all possible for 2 days.plus they can be loyal when chips down
@DavidBrownHMI: Why do inspectors talk only to ‘key kids’? ‘bribed, threatened....’: a pretty poor view of fellow professionals.
@DavidBrownHMI: If you read conversation I describe what I view as some inaccurate assumptions in the (interesting) blog on behave
@stevejodwin: And I (like many tchrs I guess) think his blog very accurate. 38 wks & 3days that you never see in 2 days.
@DavidBrownHMI: Did I not mention I was a teacher for 32 years :)?
@DavidBrownHMI: And just giving my opinion as someone who has led and taken part in many school inspections.
@stevejodwin: Can only talk from my own experience (& aware that @tombennett71: has wide responses to his Qs). Your exp positive, many not
@DavidBrownHMI: Of course, I have only ever claimed to talk about my own experiences (would not want to rely on heresay).
@stevejodwin: To conclude,OFSTED opening pos’n will only lead to behaviour being masked,not tackled in many schls due to fear
@DavidBrownHMI: That would be a shame, but it is a stange defence (and based (in my opinion :)) on fallacies).
@tombennett71: Sorry, absence due to Sherlock. I’m sure many inspectors are golden, but this guidance shuts down BM systems
@tombennett71: And if one doesn’t have to deal with the behaviour face to face (some SLT, inspectors) it’s easy to say no to exclusion...
@tombennett71: In order to maintain a paper trail that says ‘behaviour is good’. Poor behaviour isn’t always mayhem and chaos.
@DavidBrownHMI: I agree, and I understand your arguments, but I think you are aiming at the wrong target. Always good to have a debate!
@tombennett71: Do you mean schools? Because they will almost *always* try to anticipate the preferences of Ofsted
@DavidBrownHMI: The problem is they try to anticipate what they ‘believe’ are the preferences of Ofsted and they (and others) are not.... 1/2
@DavidBrownHMI: ...always correct. I write some docs (no, not these) and am aware of how they can be misinterpreted despite best intentions 2/2
@tombennett71: But isn’t article 80 quite specific? or being generous, misleadingly specific? We both know exactly how this will be read
@DavidBrownHMI: I do believe that if you read it very carefully without any spin it confirms what I have written this evening. 1/2
@DavidBrownHMI: Text can always be improved; the issue is being clear without being vague - I know from experience how difficult this is! 2/2
@tombennett71: And I’m certain that HTs will read this and think ‘We have to get exclusions down’. And many all do that any way they can
@tombennett71: It isn’t just an issue of clarity vs ambiguity: this article will shut down credible consequence-based behaviour systems
@DavidBrownHMI: And so they should (those not in school cannot progress) but, as you explain in your blog, there are at times reasons.
@tombennett71: And it isn’t good enough to say ‘We were misunderstood.’ Ofsted have enormous impact and they have a duty to direct with care
@DavidBrownHMI: And HTs should explain those reasons and inspectors should listen; but this must not encourage excuses.
@DavidBrownHMI: I am afraid my experiences as a teacher, leader and inspector tell me that if someone wants to misunderstand they will.
@tombennett71: But making low exclusions a proxy for good governance is crushing good behaviour governance
@tombennett71: Then inspectors themselves need clearer guidance that low exclusions doesn’t imply successful school management- art 80 fails
@tombennett71: This direction wilfully encourages what you describe as misunderstanding. And if Ofsted won’t amend it, it colludes in it
@DavidBrownHMI: I think that low exculsions can be PART of ‘implying’ good management - but the reverse is not always true. I think we agree.
@DavidBrownHMI: Any amendment could also be misunderstood. Surely what matters is what the words mean - and personally I think that is clear.
@tombennett71: I’ll take your word that we agree! Because the guidelines WILL suggest to HTs to cut exclusions artifically. So we don’t..
@tombennett71: And personally I see what happens in schools because of this guidance, and it is crucifying teachers.
@DavidBrownHMI: I meant agree on the specific point re high exclusions not always due to ‘bad’ management - but perhaps I was wrong.
@tombennett71: Thank you for clarification; yes, we agree on that. Many inspectors aren’t as enlightened as you…
@DavidBrownHMI: Is it the guidance at fault or (in my opinion) inaccurate interpretation? And who is to blame for this - we do disagree here!
@tombennett71: A needlessly suggestive art. 80, a high-stakes accountability system, a generation of nervous SLT terrified of inspection
@DavidBrownHMI: and at that compliment (enlightened) I need to retire. Goodnight, I enjoyed our discussion.
@tombennett71: Thank you, you too