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'Ofsted’s dress sense certainly requires improvement: one inspector visiting our school was mistaken for a tramp'

Following news that the inspectorate’s staff have been told to smarten up their look, one teacher turns the tables on Ofsted…

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An inspector in sagging corduroy once shuffled into a lesson at our school, soon fell asleep and remained slumped in such a state of general dishevelment that one of the departing pupils genuinely believed him to be a tramp. So I was not hugely surprised to hear that Ofsted HQ (possibly Sir Michael Wilshaw himself) has recently been in touch with the team on how to dress appropriately

Here is the full published report, out today. Or as I would like to imagine it ….

Report on the clothing of the Ofsted Inspectorate, January 2016

Overall standard: Requires improvement 3

Quality of the leadership’s (Sir Michael’s) clothes:  Good  2

Governance of the Ofsted wardrobe: Inadequate 4

Dress and appearance of the team generally:  Requires improvement 3

Leadership and management’s clothes : Good. The head, Sir Michael Wilshaw, sets the highest of standards.  He is invariably in a sharp, made-to-measure suit, aesthetically in line with his recent attack on the “one-size-fits-all” approach to comprehensive schooling. He tends to favour his grey or dark blue range of suit but the sobriety is offset well with the familiar white shirt and lustrous tie. It’s probably not the sexiest look available in his locker but it fits the role well. 

The leadership is plainly doing everything he can to set high expectations and to raise standards among the team, leading from the front with this bold display of sartorial strength and consistency throughout the whole body.  

To reach “outstanding” the leader needs to hold on to what he has, but sometimes to dress in a way that speaks to the younger end of the educational world. He could occasionally opt for a perhaps tie-less and open-neck approach, lower the trousers just a little so that the belt-line sometimes sits a little more fashionably around the hips.  On some days the leader might also consider a little more “gender fluidity”.  The occasional display of hemline would give a strong message to the rest of his team to support the new (and overdue) dress-code diversity now introduced at Brighton College and elsewhere.

Governance of the Ofsted wardrobe: Inadequate. Although the leadership sets such a fine example, the elected people responsible seem to be turning a blind eye to the many “dressing-up” inconsistencies found elsewhere within Ofsted. Ms Morgan and Mr Gibb should not be overly concerned simply with covering their own backs here.

Quality of inspectors’ appearance and appendagesInadequate. Overall, the inspectors’ appearance is slowly improving but it needs to be more consistent. The majority of inspectors generally look “alright” or appear “satisfactory”, but this, of course, is no longer acceptable. Inspectors, as with everything else, must now look good or outstanding.

Too frequently, the best-dressed inspectors are not provided with materials that will push them, with few opportunities in their wardrobe for them to enhance or deepen their appeal to the teaching profession. This is continually disappointing. A little more extra-curricular engagement between teacher and visiting inspector would go a long way to improving the working atmosphere between the two, er, bodies concerned.

Often the needs of the less attractive inspectors are not addressed at all, with little or no differentiation in evidence. While there are several instances of excellent practice, too many inspectors appear not to be sufficiently versed in the basics of good taste, with even HQ apparently commenting recently on instances of excessive or unsightly inspectorate bling. 


In conclusion it is to be hoped that the head is able to bring about the necessary changes to enable greater clothing consistency and quality across the inspectorate.  However, many who experience Ofsted teams have also suggested that the whole body concerned needs much more than better dress sense. Many argue that a complete face and body make-over is required – enough to transform it not just on the outside but on the inside too. “Advice, not adjectives” – would seem a better and more formative way forward, in whatever clothes.

We would like to thank the inspectorate team for their hospitality during the research and preparation of this report. A letter will shortly be sent out to the children, explaining your strengths and limitations.

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire

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