I spent some time this week in the process of peer review that we undertake as part of the partnership work between our local group of schools. It was an intensive couple of days visiting lessons, sampling books, discussing with senior and middle leaders and discussing as a review team what we had seen and the guidance we might offer to the reviewed school.
It was vital to have this whole process agreed upon and I have found it incredibly valuable. I did have my doubts (as was seen in “Responsibility and Mocksteds”) but whilst I still have questions about how we can make these reviews as useful as possible, I believe this week has been supportive, positive and with the best wishes for the reviewed school in our hearts.
The focus of the review was agreed by my colleague headteacher at the reviewed school and then planned by one of my other colleagues. I have more recently become part of the partnership and was delighted to have the opportunity to be part of this review. It was undoubtedly the case that the staff were nervous and it is also true to say that the team was honest and to the point. I am interested in how we can continue to refine the model so that we can be absolutely clear that all schools, staff and children can feel clear that the process is wholly positive, even when there are difficult observations to make based upon what we find.
It is this model that has real co-operation at its centre. There is a minefield of unpleasant competitiveness going on between schools across the country and in our authority and this initiative is one that will help us ensure that we see partnership as an integral part of what we do.
Sean Harford’s response to Tom Sherrington’s criticism of OFSTED inspections has resulted in this refreshing admission about inspectors:
the weakest ones have been guilty of using the published data as a safety net for not making fully-rounded, professional judgements based on the school’s own information, work in books/folders over time, progress seen across year groups/classes, the attitudes to learning of pupils, improvements to teaching following focused CPD etc.
I said in “That was the term that was” that my view of OFSTED was that they were variable in their approach. I have seen very recently a critical OFSTED report on a school I know based upon this very approach – a focus upon one set of data that has then prevented getting a really thorough view of provision at the school.
I do not think that the removal of what was seen as “preferred styles of teaching” led by bloggers such as @oldandrewuk has helped resolve the situation. What has seemed to emerge is a removal of the ‘safety net’ that so many OFSTED inspectors relied upon and as a result a number seem to be making it up as they go along.
The more open approach is absolutely necessary, but to expect that our OFSTED colleagues could adapt to the new regime is perhaps as hopeful as expecting that all dogs will behave when off the leash. Some schools have been bitten and some have just been lucky to have a cuddly wet nose….
OFSTED came and went and we have got on with the business of education. I have always found OFSTED teams to be a variable bunch, some individuals excellent, challenging me to consider how we can best improve our provision, others with whom I have enjoyed debate and disagreement and some unfortunately who have their own agenda and a need to prove themselves.
I don’t disagree with the need for external moderation and challenge of a senior team’s judgement and provision, but the current system does remain flawed.
However, the system is as it is and at present we need to work with the teams who are guests in our school. If we are ill prepared for a rigorous debate and assessment then we do our staff and students no favours at all.