Inspection regime is foul not fair

27th September 2013 at 01:00

I am writing to query the assumption that the current arrangements for school inspection in England are in the best interests of students and schools. While Her Majesty's Chief Inspector may be confident that there is a correlation between the toughness of Ofsted's approach and how well students learn, there is no real objective measure of this correlation ("Ofsted's approach 'is not backed by research'", 13 September). Rather, there is just a kind of hazy momentum to the unquestioning belief that raising levels of achievement is dependent on a punitive inspection approach rather than the professional integrity of teachers. Beyond that, the anxiety generated by inspections makes free debate about what really matters in the learning and development of our students much harder to explore.

It also continues to be a concern that school leaders can have their careers, not to mention well-being, trampled over by the Ofsted framework. Twelve years ago, when I was headteacher of a special school in London, I was told the school had "serious weaknesses" and I well remember how that felt. Five years of hard work in the most trying of local circumstances was disregarded in one stroke of the lead inspector's pen. I am lucky in that I was young and motivated enough to put it behind me and develop a new career as a psychotherapist.

Proper research into the impact of inspection is long overdue. Teachers, and headteachers in particular, are either idealised for being "wonderful" or disparaged as being "not good enough". We should not be surprised that teachers are nervous about becoming school leaders when so much is at stake.

Phil Goss, Former headteacher, Ickburgh School, Hackney, East London.

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