19th June 2015 at 01:00

Ofsted is not the enemy - we're all on the same side

It was disappointing to see TES castigating Ofsted for its supposed shortcomings and iniquities without the slightest attempt to present the other side of the argument ("The `best job in the world' - let's try to keep it that way", Editorial, 12 June). As someone old enough to remember the abysmal state of schools before the advent of Ofsted, I have some perspective on the important role the inspectorate has played in driving forward huge improvements to the English education system over the past two decades.

Yes, our frameworks are now more rigorous and demanding, but school and college leaders have, in the main, responded magnificently. And growing numbers are prepared to publicly acknowledge the role inspectors play in supporting their institutions to identify weaknesses and turn performance around.

The charge of inconsistency has become a clichd defence mechanism for some. And yet it belies the fact that more than 90 per cent of schools report a positive experience with the process and outcome of their inspection.

Perhaps an even more telling sign that attitudes to Ofsted are more nuanced than some critics might suggest is the fact that thousands of serving leaders have registered an interest in becoming Ofsted inspectors. We need to bury, once and for all, the outdated notion that Ofsted and the education profession are involved in a "them against us" battle. It may suit some people to perpetuate this myth, but it simply does not reflect the reality of inspection in 2015.

Ofsted will continue to reform and adapt in order to keep pace with a rapidly changing education landscape. We will continue to listen to and engage with our stakeholders from the profession and beyond. We won't, however, allow ourselves to be intimidated by those with an axe to grind or those who feel an animus against Ofsted.

When the message is unexpected, too often the knee-jerk reaction of some school leaders is to blame the messenger. That is perfectly understandable. What isn't acceptable is to impugn the professionalism and integrity of people working in the very best interests of children and young people in often difficult circumstances.

Sir Michael Wilshaw

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, Ofsted

New language plans are incomprehensible

So schools minister Nick Gibb wants all pupils to take a language as part of the English Baccalaureate (bit.lyGibbEBac). Once again, we have the wrong answer to the right question. I have no problem with languages for all, but I do have concerns about GCSE languages for all. I would love to observe Mr Gibb teaching French to a group of disaffected Year 11s - perhaps he knows something I don't, despite my 40 years in language education.

As we've been painted into the GCSE corner by the league tables and resistance to equivalences, keeping these pupils interested will be a major challenge. But then Mr Gibb won't have to do it, will he? We must not forget that it's thanks to Michael Gove - the hapless predecessor of Mr Gibb and education secretary Nicky Morgan - that the languages curriculum no longer has varied options such as Asset Languages, NVQ units and Certificates of Personal Effectiveness through Asdan.

I'm happy to teach languages to anyone, but when our flock is funnelled into the GCSE sheep dip, it can only end in tiers, as it has before. Not EBac to the future, but forward to the past.

John Connor

Modern foreign languages consultant

Farewell to a frustrating profession

"Am I destined to be on the move for ever?" by an anonymous unemployed teacher in Scotland struck a chord with me (What keeps me awake at night, 29 May). I left a well-paid job to become a part-time lecturer at a college but teaching opportunities have now dried up.

Reduced budgets, yes. A lack of contracts, maybe. But I also feel I'm being squeezed out - invitations to team meetings (including training) have stopped as they are "only for staff with current classes". This has dented my confidence, despite the fact that I received full marks in feedback from my students.

I'm leaving education. I will take my learning, my PGCE and my experience and use it elsewhere. It's a sad outcome for a bright, focused and engaged teacher seeking a long career in the profession.

Name and address supplied

Following orders is no excuse for cheating

I read " `Gaming' the system in a private school" with astonishment (Under inspection, Professional, 5 June). Not at the clearly indefensible activities of the leadership team, but at the writer's evident lack of backbone in complying with the various dishonest diktats given to staff.

He says he felt "outraged". I am outraged by a fellow professional lacking integrity and bravery, and instead displaying cowardice and meek compliance.

Alison Colwell

Principal, Ebbsfleet Academy, Kent

Students are so much more than levels

In "Pupils could be given `wrong' marks for Sats" (News, 12 June), headteacher Amanda Hulme states that "one mark can put a child above or below the threshold, and that makes a massive difference both for the school and the child".

Although I accept her point that the implication for schools can be significant, the result makes precious little difference to individual children. My dyslexic daughter was the only one in her cohort to score a level 3 in key stage 2 English. She was deflated for a about a week, but this didn't stop her getting three good A-levels and a degree. She now teaches five-year-olds to read, using the strategies she learned as a child.

Name and address supplied

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