What, no data?

2nd November 2012 at 00:00

An inspector leaves Ofsted because the inspectorate "don't know what they are talking about" ("Satisfactory? I quit! Ofsted galls one of its own", TES, 5 October). I know three other people who have done the same thing. One returned to headship because, he said, it was a far more honest and worthwhile job. It's pleasing to see people standing up to Ofsted's ridiculous and damaging agendas. I retired before my school was due its fifth inspection, although I admit I'd have enjoyed one final pop at the inspecting machine ...

"Good morning, Mr Kent. Perhaps we could start by having a look at your data?"

"No, sorry, you can't. We haven't got any. We think it promotes false assumptions about a school, it is easy to manipulate, gathering it takes up too much teacher time and it's of no real use."

"Good Lord! Then how are we supposed to make judgements about your school?"

"By visiting classrooms, talking to children and parents, looking closely at the children's books and the exciting displays around the school, and sampling all the enriching activities that take place here."

"But this won't do at all. How can your teachers possibly know if children are making progress?"

"Easily. Visit our reception classes and look at the range of learning activities on offer. See how teachers record progress with photographs and work sampling. Look at how carefully our teachers plan, and how well they know their children."

"But that doesn't give you any information about the progress children are making from year to year. You need data to achieve that."

"No you don't. Every teacher knows exactly what their children should be achieving and they meet regularly to discuss and moderate children's work."

"So could you show me your records of teacher appraisal and performance management?"

"No, sorry, we don't believe in that either. We trust the professionalism of our teachers. And since I'm in and out of the classrooms constantly, and often teach myself, I know my teachers as well as they know their children."

"But what if somebody needs help? Newly qualified teachers especially. Can I see your files showing that NQTs are reaching the mandatory standards?"

"No, sorry. We don't do any of that. NQTs are particularly enthusiastic and should be left alone to hone their skills. If they need help and advice, there are plenty of experienced people around."

"Then let me see your records of children with special educational needs so I can confirm they're making the appropriate sublevels of progress."

"We don't worry about sublevels of progress. Many of our children come from challenging backgrounds. If they are settled and happy in school and doing the best they're capable of, that's fine by us."

Disgruntled, the inspector and his team spend two days looking at the school. The lead inspector then reappears in my office.

"Well, Mr Kent, you were correct. The behaviour is superb, the work is of a high standard, the children are enthusiastic and the parents are very happy. We'll leave you in peace."

I'm dreaming, of course. No data? Show me an Ofsted inspector who could cope with that.

Mike Kent is a retired primary head. Email: mikejkent@aol.com. He will be taking part in a "Rebel Teachers' Workshop" at the London Festival of Education on 17 November. www.londonfestivalofeducation.com.

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