Saturday, 11 October 2014

Ofsted IS part of the problem?

Over the years I’ve been writing this blog I have never minced my words – often harsh ones - about Ofsted. Now it turns out I’m not the only one! Advisers at the Department for Education are apparently hanging their heads in despair about the organisation, as a leaked memo makes clear.

I can’t comment on how accurate Ofsted’s school inspections are. All I know is that it is hard not to have too low a view of most of Ofsted’s inspections of child protection and children’s services. And I was particularly struck by Dominic Cummings’ comment in his memo that Ofsted has “… missed massive child abuse scandals under their noses, which they are very lucky not to have been hammered for”.

But my main preoccupation is Ofsted’s inspection reports and what they reveal about the organisation and the inspections it conducts. The reports are frequently formulaic and naïve. Many of the recommendations they make are unrealistic. The reports invariably lack an analytic approach. On too many occasions they blame but do not explain. They frequently judge but do not identify routes to improvement.

And I would love to know what Ofsted’s methodology is based on. When I wrote to them asking some straightforward questions I was shocked to find out that there doesn’t seem to be much methodology – rather just a bit of arbitrary accepted practice.

There is no evidence at all that the whole expensive Ofsted shebang has had any positive effect in improving standards in children’s services or in making children and young people any safer.