So, having had our own OFSTED experience last week (and I am awaiting the soft fall of the draft into my inbox tomorrow) we now need to consider how to ensure that we continue to move forward in the school and across our partnership.
I believe it is vital that senior leadership teams face challenging questions from their peers so that we can always ensure that we are not becoming complacent, lacking in direction, or heading off to disaster. A partnership between a group of schools can be the best and most supportive way to approach this and I am very much looking forward to developing the partnership so that we can support each other. Tough questions from senior leaders to senior leaders, with the aim of seeking improvement.
The threat for senior leaders is that the spectre of OFSTED leads to a fear and thus a preparation for that means that school improvement activities become a rehearsal of the event itself, rather than more effective self-evaluation. This is where Mocksteds can be suggested as the “best preparation” for senior leaders to have to prepare their schools.
It’s not. Mocksteds are the best preparation for senior leaders to pretend to be OFSTED inspectors. That’s not our job. We should welcome external accountability, but should not ape those for our own approaches to leadership and management.
This is the issue that those that promote Mocksteds miss – OFSTED do not lead and manage schools. We do.
We need to build trust and ensure that in every classroom and for every student, the focus is upon developing knowledge, skills and understanding. That approach is not best served by OFSTED style learning walks and lesson observations, however well we believe we are accurate in our judgements. Instead it is best served through systems that allow growth and support for staff, systems that encourage risk taking and involvement and that celebrate new directions and even mistakes!
For senior teams to use an inspection model to support school development is questionable.
Classroom teachers work hard. They need senior teams to find ways to support their work. We don’t need Mocksteds that put classroom teachers under further pressure. It feels that using them is instead an abdication of our responsibility as senior leaders.