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2 The sharp end of inspection The secret thoughts of a teacher about to be inspected

3 Three odd letters If Chris Huhne pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, shouldn't Michael Wilshaw plead guilty to perverting the course of inspection? If a politician's personal qualities are reflected in their reading, shouldn't Pride and Prejudice be Michael Gove's favourite book? Why is Stephen Twigg restricting himself to clearing up Gove’s mess rather than setting out a renewed vision and agenda? He needs to be less of a Hoover and more of a Roosevelt. A New Deal is certainly needed for English state education.

4 My talk An attempt at outlining a more intelligent, less misconceived approach to accountability and inspection focussing on Key Stages 1-2 but hopefully relevant to other stages An attempt to confront, and move on from, current realities An attempt to avoid utopias and too much wishful thinking Hopefully a stimulus for reasoned, realistic discussion following my talk

5 A critical time; a time to be critical We’re experiencing a time of maximum danger but paradoxically a time when orthodox approaches to school accountability could be modified given compromise on all sides English state education is being confronted by a surprisingly coherent package of measures which if implemented fully will not only be challenging to implement but more importantly will radically re-design state primary education in England, and to a considerable but lesser extent state secondary education.

6 For primary education those elements are (i) excessively detailed, rigid prescription of content focussed on three subjects only; (ii) an inspection system focused on a very narrow, impoverished view of "achievement" in the same three subjects and (iii) yet-to-be devised ways of “grading” attainment on content knowledge in the same three subjects. Yet the current Ofsted paradigm is discredited and needs to change; some Ofsted senior managers recognise this

7 Some current nonsenses “Outstanding” teaching and “outstanding schools” can be clearly and unambiguously defined; Children’s progress can be “measured” and then in terms of two subjects only Inspection involves following clear, unambiguous criteria The quality of a school’s curriculum does not need to be judged by inspectors Inspection does not require phase expertise “Performance” is synonymous with evaluation “Requires improvement” doesn’t apply to some so-called “outstanding” schools

8 Short- to medium-term realities Irrespective of our wishes, in the medium term: Ofsted will not be abolished, though its status and regime might change somewhat Wilshaw is unlikely to be forced out- at least in the short term; National testing of some sort will not be phased out; Teacher assessment will not be accepted as the main or sole source of data on children’s progress; Self-evaluation will not be seen as sufficient for accountability purposes; PISA data will not be discredited as totally spurious;

9 The pressure from politicians and the general public for information on how “good” schools are will not abate; Parents’ desire to know how their children are progressing (including in relation to their peers) will not diminish; Whatever its attractions a “Royal”(?) College of Teaching, if established, will not restore 1970-80s professional autonomy

10 What is required? Schools accept the need for accountability (including, but not only or mainly) external inspection. The issue is what form that accountability (including inspection should take). New-style accountability would need to be rendered at the level of the school, the individual child and the system as a whole

11 Accountability at school level In order to secure school accountability the government needs a system which insures that individual schools are providing a suitable quality of education and which triggers action should that quality not be evident. Complemented to a degree by school self-evaluation inspection by suitably qualified and experienced inspectors is the most appropriate means for judging quality. Inspection involves the making of complex judgements, not the “ticking off” of activities observed. It is an art requiring “educational connoisseurship”, not a tick-box, data-obsessed mentality. What is the nature of inspection, properly conceived?

12 The nature of inspection “We learn certain things only through long experience and not from a course in school. How, for instance, does one develop the eye of a connoisseur? Someone says, for example, ‘This picture was not painted by such-and-such a master’. He may not be able to give any good reasons for his verdict. How did he learn it? Could someone have taught him? Yes – not in the same way as one learns to calculate. A great deal of experience was necessary. That is, the learner probably had to look at and compare a large number of pictures by various masters again and again. In doing this he could have been given hints. Well, that was the process of learning. But then he looked at a picture and made a judgment about it. In most cases he was able to list his reasons for his judgment, but generally it wasn’t they that were convincing.” “The value of the evidence varies with the experience and the knowledge of the person providing it, and this is more or less the only way of weighing such evidence since it cannot be evaluated by appeal to any system of general principles or universal laws.”

13 Some limitations of current Ofsted inspection methodology Inspection is the least unreliable form of school evaluation – but it’s not fool-proof. It has to be implemented by inspectors who are fallible human beings and can never meet the high professional standards to which they are expected to aspire. Leaving aside the horrific tales of insensitivity/crassness/incompetence of particular individuals and problems with the details of inspection procedures (which I accept are very real) the framework being used has very real weaknesses.

14 The current Ofsted framework and schedule: (a)use an impoverished view of what constitutes children’s “attainment” and “achievement” focussed almost entirely on so-called “objective” quantitative data; (b)judge the effectiveness of schools largely on that same data; (c)focus on performance rather than quality of education; (d)claim too much for inspectors’ ability to judge learning and progress, especially in very short lesson observations; (e)imply too tight a relationship between “teaching” and “achievement” so that, for example, “unsatisfactory” pupil achievement must necessarily be the result of “unsatisfactory” teaching; (f)imply too tight a relationship between leadership and management and achievement, failing to realise for example that good management does not necessarily lead to high achievement, nor does high test performance necessarily correlate with good management practice;

15 (g) do not require inspectors to give explicit, detailed attention to the quality of the school curriculum – despite its importance for developing children’s understanding and values (h) do not require inspectors to comment on all, or a representative sample, of the subjects/areas taught by the school Inspection criteria need radically reformulating - with judgements of “performance”(achievement and attainment) uncoupled from judgements of quality.

16 A remodelled inspection process The most radical change would be a two-stage inspection process where reporting on quality is uncoupled from reporting on data-led performance: Stage 1 leading to a short published report on the quality of education observed (with no prior disclosure of performance data to inspectors) Stage 2 : leading to a complementary published report on the school’s effectiveness (taking account of quantitative data and the judgements made in the stage 1 report) and providing recommendations for the school’s development arrived at through dialogue with those working in the school – perhaps through an inservice day involving inspectors and system- leaders?

17 Other aspects: (a) use of school self-evaluation to inform both stages of the inspection process; (b) opportunity for schools to have their comments published in respect of both stage-reports; ©all schools to be inspected at regular intervals; (d) work across the curriculum to be reported upon in Stage one (e) abolition of “twenty minute” observation periods; (f) removing the requirement on inspectors to judge “progress” in individual lessons (f)use of a radically re-formulated inspection framework (g) an increase in the length of inspections (compared with the current model) but not to the length of some earlier inspection models

18 (h) a lengthening of the time-scale between inspections but still hopefully twice in any child’s primary career (i)phasing out of additional inspectors and a corresponding increase in the number (and in-service professional development ) of HMI And ideally (though less likely in practice) A national inspection service totally independent of the DfE and accountable directly to parliament A national inspection service subject to periodic review – by teachers and other interested parties including MPs and inspectors from other jurisdictions

19 Such a system would (a) give schools and teachers credit for the quality of education they provide, irrespective of so-called “measured” achievement; (b) give them a greater input into, and commentary, on the inspection process; © answer parents’ question “How good is my child’s school?” give governors and the wider community a more rounded and informed view of their school’s strengths and weaknesses

20 Accountability and individuals’ progress Quite rightly parents will also pose the question “How is my child progressing?” Realistically this will require a combination of teacher assessment(regularly applied) but also testing (sensitively conducted and reported). Some element of national testing is inevitable in the medium- term But ideally test results need uncoupling from public judgements of school effectiveness

21 A modified testing regime National testing : retained focusing on reading, mathematics and basic writing skills Tests to be designed to provide both summative and (if feasible) diagnostic information which would be reported to parents on an individual basis but not used as the main vehicle for school accountability (which would be secured through publication of the two-stage Ofsted reports) Test data: not reported on a school-by-school basis but could be reported at LA level (if thought desirable) Test administered twice: at the end of Y2 and at the end of Y5- followed by more remedial or more challenging work to be provided in the same school before transfer Abolition of “levels” and of Y1 phonic checks

22 Teacher assessment Development of more valid and reliable forms of teacher assessment for learning – without the use of “levels” Teacher assessment in relation to each subject/area but in a manageable form Yearly teacher assessments of children’s progress in relation to an agreed but small number of assessment criteria in each curricular area plus an appraisal of children’s attitude to learning This way parents would know how their children were progressing not only in the tested subjects but more generally without imposing an unmanageable assessment burden on individual teachers

23 Accountability at national level Needed a national body to set standards in a variety of subjects/areas and, where feasible, to devise corresponding national tests tailor-made to the English curriculum; Test development to be quality–assured by national and international experts with a view to replacing undue reliance on PISA tests in the medium term Same set of tests administered year-on-year to a tiny but representative sample of pupils; no pupil to be tested in more than one subject ; each pupil to be given a limited number of test items in any one subject Data at national level to be published biannually to chart changes over time

24 New-style accountability: an overview A three-fold system of accountability relating to (a) the system as a whole;(b) individual schools and © individual children It would answer the questions: “Is the system’s performance on national standards rising or falling over time”? “Is the local school providing a good quality education?” And for parents “How is my child progressing?”

25 I believe that this more intelligent accountability system would provide an appropriate and generally acceptable balance between professional autonomy and public accountability Do you ?

26 Sent to the Guardian but not published Seen at junction 36 on the M6 A sign “Ferret Show! But No sign or picture of Michael Gove


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