We can do better

30th March 2012 at 01:00

Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting Park View Business and Enterprise School in Birmingham, where the inspirational leadership of Lindsey Clark has seen remarkable improvements in outcomes for some of the city's most deprived young people. Like all great heads, Clark has put her heart and soul into the school, and the pride and respect of the pupils shines through in everything they do.

I reflected on the moral purpose at the heart of schools such as Park View in my speech to the Association of School and College Leaders conference the same day. I hope I also got across a bit more of the light and shade in the views I have been outlining since taking on the role of chief inspector. It was good to speak directly to school leaders, respond to their questions and make clear that regardless of how my views are sometimes portrayed, I have the utmost respect for the work of the teaching profession. I know that in many ways the education being provided to our young people today is the best it has ever been.

Most heads are doing a great job, challenging and driving up standards. That is what our inspection evidence shows. The recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report also identified that leadership in our schools is among the best in the world. We should be proud of that achievement. But we know we can still do better. It is important to say this and I make no apology for raising the issue. We cannot afford to sit back and relax. We need to work together to make sure every child receives the education they deserve.

That is why I want to change the way Ofsted works. The changes we are consulting on will support heads and teachers who are striving to improve their schools. I want inspection to be a powerful tool to challenge and drive up standards. But we are listening to the profession as we make our final decisions. We have already had a tremendous response to our consultation and I would encourage all TES readers to take the time to make their views known.

Finally, I've heard several myths about inspection and I want to set the record straight. One relates to the way we judge achievement. What matters most is the difference a school is making for its pupils. We are not expecting schools to do the impossible. Let me be absolutely clear about this: raw examination results matter, but they alone do not and will not determine inspection judgements.

I also want to lay to rest the myth that inspectors want to see a certain kind of lesson. Yes, lessons should be planned, but not in an overly complicated and formulaic way. A crowded lesson plan is as bad as a crowded curriculum. We want to see pupils engaged and learning. So if an inspector walks into a classroom and the pupils are working on an extended task for the whole time, that's fine. If a teacher is reading a play with the class and they are all engaged, that's fine too. There should be no prescription about lesson structure.

It has been a busy three months since I took the helm at Ofsted, but also hugely rewarding and fulfilling. I have particularly enjoyed meeting education professionals in my new role. Even after 43 years in the profession, I am still very much engaged in the learning process.

Sir Michael Wilshaw Her Majesty's Chief Inspector. The consultation on changes to inspection frameworks can be found at www.ofsted.gov.uk.

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