Letters Extra: Adding to the standards debate

5th February 2004 at 00:00

The current dissent and correspondence over the new Ofsted framework and its implementation are providing a worrying dimension to the standards debate. The discussion about `satisfactory' lessons being in fact unsatisfactory is not a semantic one.nbsp;This is not the case for many teachers where Ofsted teams are obviously not up to speed with the framework and appear to be making their own interpretations. When this is allied to Inspectors who still do not understand that the pernicious PANDA is made up of raw data and who seem incapable of relating it to differing school circumstances.

In our area two RGIs who really knew their stuff took the PANDA information and by using their expertise upgraded grades from E to C and D to B in two cases. Such differences in interpretation and quality of inspection will give teachers as little faith in the new framework as in the old.

After many years of complaint about arbitrary inspections the principle of self-evaluation being a valuable tool for a school was allegedly accepted by the DfES and schools felt more confident in openly looking at their strengths and weaknesses in order to improve. There is now increasing evidence that some Ofsted teams are immediately homing in on the weaknesses and using these as the basis for the report will little regard for the strengths and the honesty of the school.

All this uncertainty is further undermining the morale of teaching staff and reinforcing the belief that no matter how well they perform it will never be good enough.

I am now fully convinced that if Michelangelo has received a PANDA during his work on the Sistine chapel he would have received a C on the grounds that he `missed a bit on the architrave.'

All this is a sad confirmation of my growing belief that the education service is seen as a management system that must be codified and which must produce compliance by the operatives ,conformity in the schools and , above all must provide enormous amounts of data that can be measured and tabulated.

As Eric Bolton, former Chief HMI, once memorably said: "All that counts cannot always be counted and all that can be counted does not always count." But there again, he didn't have Ofsted training and was independent of the bureaucracy.
Tony Roberts


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