It seems that teachers no longer know where they stand. Now you're saying that satisfactory teaching isn't satisfactory

6th February 2004 at 00:00
Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, Mr Dell.

As head of Ofsodd, I believe it's important to make sure people understand. Hmmm, I'm starting to feel a little oddI That's because I've slipped a truth drug into your coffee. Now, when you were appointed, you were going to give Ofsodd a human face.

Yes, indeed, that was the aim. Teachers were having a grim time with my predecessor.

So what happened? You recently attacked primary teachers for having a poor grasp of basic English and maths.

Primary schools haven't met the Government's targets, and I've got to blame someone. Primary teachers are a soft target.

But aren't the targets a bit daft? Life doesn't revolve around targets. And you simply can't improve percentages year after year.

Look, the Government doesn't want to hear that, and if it thinks Ofsodd isn't improving things it might get rid of me and my army of inspectors.

Hundreds of inspectors might have to go back to the classroom.

So, by criticising the teachers, you're telling the Government that Ofsodd still has a function?

Absolutely correct.

Even though there's no proof Ofsodd has improved schools. Exactly the opposite, in fact. You spend huge amounts of money each year.

Only a couple of hundred million. Small fry by DfES standards. It spent pound;4 million commissioning a report on what makes a good teacher.

But Ofsodd's caused good teachers to have breakdowns. Capable heads have resigned in frustration.

Ofsodd is designed to shake schools up a bit.

Shake them upI and yet not improve them?

That's not our brief. We give a list of things they need to put right.

So, no useful advice then?

No, that's left to the consultants, link inspectors, psychologists, behavioural therapists, LEA managers, improvement co-ordinators and others.

It seems that teachers no longer know where they stand. Now you're saying satisfactory teaching isn't satisfactory.

I said schools where the majority of lessons were satisfactory could have their teaching deemed unsatisfactory.

So satisfactory could be unsatisfactory?

In some schools, yes. In others, no. Life is full of little contradictions.

And so are inspections.

I think most teachers would agree that schools need inspections. But aren't there better, less wasteful ways?

I fear we'd need a hefty think tank to come up with a better idea.

Well, here's one. An LEA could employ a small team of high-quality inspectors who'd been innovative class teachers and first-rate organisers.

Each would have a group of schools to look after. They'd get to know their schools, and the schools would trust their wisdom and respect their abilities. The money you'd save could be ploughed back into school budgets.

Standards would improve through mutual desire and interest.

Sounds interesting.

So you'll think about it?

Certainly. Hang on... I'm feeling better. I don't know what came over me.

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark.

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