Change a poor system

6th May 2005 at 01:00
At last, pupils are to report on their teachers for future school inspections. But why stop there? Given that their opinions are so honest, astute and free of jargon, surely children could raise standards still further if they were asked to review the visiting inspection team too?

Most of us will remember the occasional pupil who has been ahead of the game here, openly and audibly offering a succinct evaluation of a visiting inspector within seconds of Ofsted week commencing. Consider the pioneering feedback of young Shane back in 1998, for example. For the sake of decency I must lapse briefly into received Ofstedese when I relate his announcement to the class about an HMI sitting in on his GCSE maths lesson: "She looks as if she is somewhat overdue a sound and extensive period of satisfactory carnal activity."

There may not be enough Ofsted phrases to cover the other qualities pupils find in inspectors. "I honestly thought the old boy was dead" would litter the pages of any such pupil-based report, along with "tight", "rough", "minger", "asleep", and "reminded me of my grandma - after she'd lost it".

There would, however, be a far more serious difficulty in letting pupils assess the inspectors: every inspection team in the country would be in "special measures" within weeks. And rightly so. Pupils would report that whenever they sampled the inspector-teacher interaction "no real learning was taking place for the teacher". Today's formatively-assessed pupils well know that all learners (pupils, teachers - and inspectors themselves) make little or no progress if their performance is simply classified as "excellent to poor". Learners only focus on how to improve if grade-giving is the least significant feature of their assessor and when the real focus of the assessment is on sharing and discussing better ways of doing things.

Since this is how the pupils themselves learn best, they might reasonably expect the visiting army of experts to follow the same approach when visiting their school - plenty of detailed constructive advice together with the sharing of an inspector's sizeable database of pertinent lesson plans and helpful resources.

Pupils are unlikely to be im-pressed when they discover in-stead the inspectors' antiquated, ineffective and often demoralising marking system.

"Ah, but it's important to keep 'inspection' and 'advice' as two separate processes", I hear some voices say. No it isn't - it's just much more expensive, slower and far less effective that way.

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