This story about Ofsted re-configuring its workforce is interesting. As I see it there are two possibilities.
The first is the simplest and, for Ofsted the least damaging. I say ‘least damaging’ because it is still damaging and I will explain why. Under this possibility all that is happening is that Ofsted is responding to the Government cutting its budget and therefore cutting its cloth appropriately. Along the way it will be culling from its books (which is not strictly correct as they were never technically on their books) inspectors who either did not want to inspect any more or perhaps those inpectors who had not done more than a couple of inspections over the previous five years and frankly weren’t really in the game to start with.
Why is this possibility damaging? Well, Ofsted has briefed that there has been a “robust assessment” process and “We see an opportunity to improve our services and we are going to take it.” clearly intending to give the impression they have been clearing out the stables. If all that has happened is a bit of natural wastage then I’m afraid all they are doing is spinning. If statements from a regulator can be seen as just spin then how seriously can we take other pronouncements? About anything.
The second possibility is far more damaging and to be honest I’m a little surprised at the relative lack of reaction. The other possibility is that Ofsted are saying that 40% of their inspectors for the past number of years have not been up to the job and could not pass a “robust assessment” process. Lets consider what would have happened if, say, the NHS turned round and said “Sorry, but we’ve just robustly assessed all our medical staff and 40% of them aren’t up to it.” Or if the Home Secretary had suggested the same about the police force. Or the Justice minister about Judges. Or a simpler example. What changes would you have expected to see if a HMCI had suggested that up to 25,000 teachers were not up to the job. Of course, we don’t have to imagine that one, do we?
I’m going to put this as simply as I can. If Ofsted are right and 40% of the inspectors previously in place were not up to the job, then that is a national scandal. If that is correct then we need to know the answers to some questions.
Amongst other things we need to know:
- How many inspections were these 40% part of?
- How are those inspection results being reviewed?
- How will the previous employers of these inspectors being investigated?
- How can we be sure that the “robust assessment” process was sufficiently robust – this needs an external review that can be trusted so we can be sure that the right 40% have been culled.
If Ofsted are truly saying that 40% of its inspectors were not up to scratch then Sir Michael Wilshaw needs to consider his position. Actually he doesn’t need to consider it, he just needs to resign.
I think that the recent Ofsted PR offensive has lessened some of the criticism we might have expected to see. They’ve done a good job getting people inside the tent.
Certainly my first instinct when hearing this story was, spin. Having thought about it some more, even though the spin option is damaging, I do have very deep concerns that I may have been wrong. If I was then we have a regulator that is not fit for purpose under its current leadership.
Update (20th June 2015)
There were two interviews on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme on 19th June 2015 on this issue. One with Sir Robin Bosher (Ofsted Director, Quality and Training) and the other with Neil Carmichael MP, the new chair of the Education Select Committee. In my view neither of them came across well nor were the central questions, the same as I ask above, answered. You can listen here yourself – BBC Radio 4 PM Programme – starts at 5 minutes 20 seconds.