Sharp end of Ofsted practice

7th March 2008 at 00:00
The last few weeks' attention by The TES on Ofsted arrived not a minute too soon. I can only hope your articles will awaken colleagues sufficiently to ensure that the new Ofsted framework promised for 2009 has the widest approval within the profession.

You are quite right in your assessment that Ofsted has reduced its inspection regime to a minimum. Having recently retired as a secondary headteacher, I have worked in schools facing challenging circumstances throughout my career and am able to give an in-depth view of the sharp end of Ofsted practice. Your articles actually may not give the full picture. There is no doubt from every inspection I have been involved with that the standards-leadership-teaching and learning triumvirate has dictated things and one cannot (in Ofsted terms) have good leadership if results are poor.

Ofsted inspectors now go further with this in that they use contextualized value added scores as their only measure. In their terms if you are around the 95th percentile this automatically defines you as a school potentially in a category of concern and schools then have a difficult job trying to avoid the tag and its consequences. In the case of my previous school this has given an unthinking local authority an opportunity to close the school and thereby decimate a local community for whom the school is a beacon.

Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector, is of the view that decisions about achievement and standards are not based entirely on CVA and the school's results. I can assure Ms Gilbert that they are! Any headteacher of a school at the bottom end of the percentile league table having had an inspection under section 5 will undoubtedly describe a difficult telephone conversation with the lead inspector, in which one is left with a feeling that a great deal of money and anguish could be saved by a telephone call from Alexandra House which says, 'Poor CVA: Special Measures': it would save us all a lot of time. Let's hope that our professional bodies now come together to challenge the poor framework we currently have and create one worthy of inspection.

Alun Pelleschi, Retired secondary head, Shipley, West Yorkshire.

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