The ex-headteacher: university leaders have to have guidance, not punitive Ofsted judgments

School conversations have been dominated by a person word: Ofsted. And what a vary of feelings that phrase evokes. As a previous headteacher who carries on to get the job done with faculty leaders, my inner thoughts are elaborate.

I think it is correct that anyone in a community sector posture is held to account. For all those of us in educational institutions, this suggests right scrutiny, not only around the common of schooling delivered but also how we preserve young individuals safe in our treatment. We have to have a body this sort of as Ofsted to do this work and to problem us when provision is not as fantastic as it can be. But I question whether the present-day inspection model guarantees that takes place in an proper way.

The two days of an Ofsted inspection are fuelled by adrenaline, caffeine and only a number of several hours sleep. Conversations with inspectors the working day just before they get there give a very good indicator of how the course of action will go: they have currently done a desktop analysis of your university, and looking up inspectors’ biographies on-line indicates you know who you are up in opposition to.

The inspections can sense like a scientific course of action of intense data accumulating – but 1 in which you have to have your wits about you to keep making your case when you come to feel unfair judgments are remaining fashioned.

But worse than the inspections, is the time between inspections. A colleague describes it as “a kind of extended torture waiting around for general public demo and execution”. Horror stories distribute like wildfire among headteachers, regional authorities and trusts desperate to stay clear of the pitfalls that have caught out many others. And why wouldn’t they? The framework by which universities are judged is much from ideal, so you would be silly not to go into fight nicely armed.

The end result of an inspection is a thorough report but if we are truthful, all that issues to the community is the summarising grade. A solitary judgment: exceptional, superior, demands advancement or inadequate – all to explain a thing so complex.

Regardless of which phrase is awarded, it is a burden for just about every headteacher. If the word is damaging, you are publicly humiliated and could drop your occupation. There is also the devastating effect on your school local community – a downward spiral of pupils and staff members leaving that is tricky to reverse. If it is good, superb even, that is excellent for now. But woe betide the quality dropping on your enjoy.

I can fully grasp why headteachers I know would skip funerals and dismiss their personal health-related emergencies to be in their college on inspection working day – it is not an practical experience to delegate. Section of your occupation as head is to be the defend that allows instructors to get on with theirs. That usually means putting on a courageous community deal with and dismissing any anxieties about inspection, whilst doing work under intolerable stress.

Correct now, the difficulties struggling with university leaders are monumental. They want supportive phrases and they also require problem – but not punitive judgments.

Ruth Luzmore is a former headteacher of a principal faculty in London

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