Crying out for a break from Ofsted's 'overblown regime'

15th January 2010 at 00:00

Barry Sheerman's remark that "there are serious question marks over the quality of inspectors that Ofsted uses" is misdirected. The question is not about the "quality" of inspectors, but about how they are expected to carry out their work.

My doctoral studies on independent consultancy work such as inspection show there are layers upon layers of performance criteria that are used by contractors to ensure the "quality" of consultants' work, but this does not prevent mistakes being made. Why not? My research suggests that performance measures are designed to limit professional autonomy and discretion and lead to the rigid application of guidance, whether this is appropriate or not.

Why does this happen? Independent consultants want to "make the grade" set by performance measures or they risk being ejected from the work. What is rewarded by contractors is unquestioning compliance with guidance and diligence in applying procedures.

This leads to "conformitivity" by consultants at the cost of a deeper professionalism which arises from autonomy and is more likely to "make a difference" in educational work because it is focused on meeting clients', and not contractors', needs. It is this contradiction that Mr Sheerman's remark fails to address.

Kiran Campbell-Platt, EdD student, Institute of Education, University of London.

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