Ofsted staff say leadership requires improvement

1st February 2013 at 00:00
Survey reveals morale slump and `lost confidence' at watchdog

Shortly before becoming Ofsted's chief inspector just over a year ago, Sir Michael Wilshaw famously joked: "If anyone says to you that `staff morale is at an all-time low', you will know you are doing something right."

If the picture of drastically deteriorating morale among the watchdog's employees painted by a staff survey released this week is anything to go by, Sir Michael may well feel that his first year at the helm has been a roaring success.

According to the Civil Service People Survey 2012, less than a third (32 per cent) of more than 1,000 Ofsted employees who took part would recommend it as "a great place to work" - 5 percentage points fewer than in 2011, and 15 percentage points down on this year's average across all government departments.

For a chief inspector who used his first annual report to stress the importance of strong leadership in schools, the performance of the watchdog's own management is less than impressive. Just 33 per cent of employees gave Ofsted a positive rating for "leadership and managing change" - 2 percentage points lower than in 2011. One source told TES: "This year the general statistics are bad, and the figures on leadership and management are some of the worst I have seen."

Sir Michael has certainly not shied away from making significant changes to the inspection regime, not least renaming the "satisfactory" category as "requires improvement" and reducing the period of notice that schools receive before inspections.

But, worryingly for the self-styled Clint Eastwood of heads, just one in five employees (20 per cent) agreed that "change is managed well within Ofsted" - 7 percentage points down from 2011. The same proportion concurred that "when changes are made in Ofsted, they are usually for the better".

The results also seem to suggest that few employees are prepared to raise their heads above the parapet, even when they have serious concerns about the decisions being made. While 32 per cent feel Ofsted "as a whole is managed well", just 26 per cent believe it is "safe to challenge the way things are done in Ofsted", down 5 percentage points on the previous year.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower blamed the drop in staff morale on Ofsted's "ever more draconian" inspection regime. "Ofsted has never had the confidence of the teaching profession. Clearly this survey suggests that Ofsted has now lost the confidence of its own workforce," she said.

Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said that moves to reorganise Ofsted under eight new regional directors were likely to have caused dissatisfaction among staff.

But while only 39 per cent of those surveyed feel "involved in the decisions that affect my work", the majority of employees enjoy their jobs. More than three-quarters (77 per cent) agreed that "my work gives me a great sense of personal accomplishment", while 91 per cent said they were interested in their work. And 40 per cent said Ofsted's leadership has "a clear vision for the future of Ofsted" - 6 percentage points higher than a year ago.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said the survey "was undertaken at a time of significant change".

"This period of uncertainty for Ofsted staff is reflected in a small reduction in Ofsted's overall engagement score to 52 per cent," she added. "However, we are pleased that an increased number of staff thought Ofsted's senior leaders have a clear vision for the future and that when changes are made they are usually for the better."


32% of Ofsted employees would recommend Ofsted as a `great place to work'.

33% gave Ofsted a positive rating for `leadership and managing change'.

20% said change within Ofsted is well managed.

Photo credit: Alamy

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