Lib Dems getting it wrong on school inspections statistics

The Independent highlights the political row over the slight (very slight) rise in schools failing Ofsted inspections, with Sarah Teacher claiming it is a sign of children being failed. As a teacher I disagree with her summary of the situation.

The reason slightly more schools are failing Ofsted inspections is because the way schools are inspected is now much fairer, much more transparent far less planned.

When I was at a school inspected 6 years ago we had 12 weeks notice. As a result the curriculum was planned and altered to show the very best of what the school does in those four inspection days. Policies in the school were re-written, statistics were caught up on, assessments were done, every display was changed, in fact, the school was unrecognisable by the time Ofsted turned up, indeed, the school even got an extra lick of paint.

Compare that to the Ofsted I went through 12 months ago (at a different school) where we got about five days notice. By the time we received the notification, all the school information had to be online and available to the Ofsted inspectors that day, the schools own self evaluations was there for the inspectors to see and by this point it was, quite rightly, too late to show off and change the lessons so the inspectors got to see the way the school really worked.

The new system means schools are seen for what they really are and schools that have high pass rates are not automatically guaranteed a good or outstanding rating, indeed, some schools with high pass marks have been rated as failing under the new system because they take the high scores for granted and are not pushing children on further.

The new system is fairer, that is why failure is now more evident. It does not mean that more schools are worse, in fact quite the contrary. It what it does show is that Ofsted are now catching more of them, which is a good thing, not a bad thing as the Lib Dems and Sarah Teacher imply. So after giving top marks to the Lib Dems for exposing the uselessness of Ruth Kelly two days ago, today I give them detention and say "must try harder".

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