What keeps me awake at night - These inspection parasites bug me

8th June 2012 at 01:00

You might think, given that I recently led a school out of an Ofsted category, that it would be inspections that most often kept me awake at night. You'd be wrong, though: what keeps me awake are people who make their livings from training teachers to face Ofsted inspections.

At the end of the 1990s, when schools had money and legions of teachers jumped ship to become consultants, a slew of parasitic professions grew up, getting fat on education.

These people included those who wrote books for exam boards (the must-have accessory for those who were left in classrooms to do the actual teaching); those who became consultants (and I sincerely hope that any medical consultant who ever treats me knows a little more than they do); and those who became advisers or, best of all, strategy advisers (as if the National Strategies were ever strategic).

Some, not all, of these have disappeared. Some were good and we benefited from their expertise. But most were merely parasitic. Having been in Ofsted training myself today, let me share (now that's a good Ofsted verb) what I've learned.

First, if you challenge anything an Ofsted trainer says, you are guilty of being an apologist for low standards.

Second, given the desperately poor quality of the PowerPoint presentations I have seen, those who judge me could not do my job. Or the job of the least experienced member of my staff, for that matter.

Third, Ofsted trainers rinse language of all meaning, rendering it nonsensical. I thought I knew what "average" and "satisfactory" meant. But apparently not, because they invent language to conceal vacuity, and use it with relish until you start to believe that it must be both real and important.

Fourth, every inspector brings to every inspection a personal (and now political) agenda. I know this because I was one. And they disguise that agenda within that capacious term "professional judgement". And you really, really need to agree with it.

Fifth, training has taught me that what Ofsted can't measure, teachers won't teach. And I wouldn't if I was teaching full-time, either. I too have a mortgage.

Sixth, every trainer tells you how much they loved and miss being, or yearn to be, in the classroom. But what, exactly, is stopping them from being there?

And finally, being in a category is usually only OK if you are a new head ("turning your school around"), but if you aren't a new head you are either coasting or failing. And we don't need to talk about those people because they will shortly disappear ...

The writer is a headteacher from the east of England. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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