Stalinesque data

13th March 2009 at 00:00

Nick McCann's question, "how can inspectors get things so horribly wrong?" ("From hero to zero and back again", March 6) was neatly answered by Mike Kent's column in the same issue: the use of targets and tracking data to beat up schools has taken accountability to Stalinesque heights.

When the Section 10 inspection framework was revised, seasoned inspectors had to re-apply for their jobs. Using a dubious online process, and questionable material, they had to show an ability to make pre-judgments about a school, purely on the basis of data and against a stopwatch. Those who were not fast number-crunchers were lost from the system; those who were, went on to the Section 5 framework, based on assumptions about the school from a complex self-evaluation form and data.

The data has become king. Heads are faced with explaining downturns in attainment to inspectors who are on the premises for fewer hours than it would take to carry out a decent MOT on a car.

When you consider the number of schools where leadership, previously graded as "very good", is suddenly downgraded to "satisfactory" on the grounds that if exam results fall the leadership must be at fault, it is not difficult to conclude that the process is not only flawed, but harmful.

I hope the new Ofsted framework will put data-crunching and tracking evidence in its place. I have inspected schools where attainment and achievement have been high, but when colleagues were asked "would you send your own child to this school?" the answer has been negative. Food for thought?

Eve Gillmon, Consultant and former lead inspector, Fordingbridge, Hampshire.

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