+44 (0)20 7799 6677

Should Ofsted Be Placed Under ‘Special Measures’?

Civitas, 24 March 2009

Ofsted is a publicly-funded agency whose job is to inspect schools on behalf of the state to ascertain their fitness for purpose. If it judges the education a school provides unsatisfactory, Ofsted can recommend that it be placed under ‘special measures’. Then, unless called-for improvements are made within a certain period, a school so placed can be forced to close.

Judged by a recent report, however, it seems that it is Ofsted, rather than the schools it inspects, that needs placing under special measures.

The school whose recent Ofsted inspection occasions this judgment is Stretford Grammar School inspected by Ofsted last month.

Its subsequent report just published raises serious questions about its competence for pronouncing on the satisfactoriness of schools.

Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of the school unsatisfactory, as it did the school’s achievements and standards, its curriculum and other activities, and its leadership and management.

At the time of the inspection, the head of the school was on sick-leave and has since resigned. It is impossible for any outsider to know how effective or ineffective he had been. He joined the school in October 2005, and it is curious that an Ofsted inspection carried out six months later found little wrong with him. The 2006 Ofsted report of the school stated:

‘Overall, leadership and management are satisfactory. The recently appointed head-teacher has already begun to identity the school’s main areas for development, and is working with other senior managers in order to implement appropriate strategies; together they are forming a clear vision for the future of the school.’

If a week in politics is a long time, it seems three years in school management can be a positive aeon.

However, since it is not inconceivable, just about, that, in the three year period since that head’s appointment, the school’s management had gone to pot, it is best a veil be drawn over this already murky aspect of the school’s work, and that we move on to consider the other areas of its operations that Ofsted also judged to be unsatisfactory.

In relation to them, the judgment of Ofsted seems undermined by its very own testimony.

Consider, first, what Ofsted stated about the overall effectiveness of the school to warrant its judgment that it was unsatisfactory. Among the negative comments about the school it made here was its claim that ‘Mathematics and science subjects are weak in Key Stage 4. Too many students fail to attain the very highest grades they capable of in their GCSE examinations.’

One really wonders how Ofsted can consider itself entitled to second-guess the judgement of the GCSE examiners here. This is especially so, since elsewhere in the report it is stated that ‘Standards attained … in GCSE examinations at the end of Year 11 are exceptionally and consistently high’.

One or other of those two statements must be untrue. Mathematics and science at Key Stage Four are not weak or else the standards attained by pupils in GCSE cannot be consistently high.

Elsewhere the report states that ‘Students’ achievements in A level mathematics and biology are outstanding.’ Since it seems prima facie difficult to see how the achievements in these subjects at that level could have been outstanding unless the prior preparation in them of pupils had been at least satisfactory, Ofsted’s claim that mathematics and science were weak at Key Stage Four seems dubious.

Consider finally what the report said about ‘curriculum and other activities’, another aspect of the school’s work that Ofsted judged unsatisfactory. In relation to the curriculum, the report stated that:

‘The school does not meet statutory requirements for information and communications technology (ICT) in Years 7 to 9, nor for physical education, personal, social and health education (PHSE) and Citizenship in Years 7 to 11. Provision for PHSE lacks cohesion and arrangements for sex and relationship education are underdeveloped… The school does not make good use of students’ views about the curriculum in order to bring about improvement.’

One wonders how, if provision of PHSE and Citizenship education were as defective as Ofsted claimed them to have been, it could have also have stated, as it did under the heading ‘Personal development and well being’, that ‘spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development is good.’ The only inference that I can draw from this conjunction of claims by Ofsted is that PHSE and Citizenship education have no discernible effect on the personal, social and development of children made to undergo their study, or only an adverse one. If so, the school’s neglect of these pseudo-subjects should have been a matter of commendation, not condemnation.

So far as concerns the extra-curricula activities provided by the school, in judging them unsatisfactory, the report based that judgment on its claim that the school offered only ‘a limited range of enrichment activities’ and that ‘too many extra-curricular activities are offered at times which are not appropriate for the many students who travel long distances to school.’

Yet, we find here Ofsted guilty of no less inconsistency in what it states and almost as wilfully blind and stupid, as we found it to have been in relation to what it stated about the spiritual, moral, and social development of the school’s pupils.

Elsewhere the report states that the school obtained ‘excellent results in … drama and music’ and that ‘students bring rich and vibrant multicultural experiences to the school… in … festival celebrations’. These commendable achievements and activities do not exactly suggest an impoverished diet of extra-curricula activity.

Nor does the claim made by the school in its just published Profile that appears on the government’s Schoolsfinder website that it has ‘worked hard this year to extend the number and range of projects involving our community’. Nor does its claim also made there that  ‘sports teams have been successful this year in a wide range of activities and the creative area of school life continues to develop with increasing numbers of young people taking advantage of the many musical and dramatic opportunities on offer.’

As to the Ofsted’s complaint that the school scheduled too many extra-curricular activities at inconvenient times for the many pupils who travelled a long distance to it, one is entitled to wonder exactly when Ofsted had it in mind for these extra-curricula activities to be scheduled?

Doubtless, it would have liked them in place of mathematics and English, in the gaps between sex education and citizenship education. Then, no doubt, Stretford would have emerged with glowing colours from its Ofsted inspection. For those, unlike it, who are favourably impressed by the school’s very high academic performance in GCSE and at A levels, its very successful record in progressing pupils to good universities, and the admitted high level of student attendance, good behaviour and morale there, the school seems altogether an excellent one.

In light of these achievements, Ofsted’s judgment that the school is unsatisfactory and in need of placement under special measures seems more of an indictment of it than an indictment of the school.

Who inspects the inspectors, eh? That’s what I keep wondering.

5 comments on “Should Ofsted Be Placed Under ‘Special Measures’?”

  1. OFSTED’s not there to back up teachers who are bullied and abused or to stand up for conscientious pupils who cannot learn because of politicised behaviour policies (see It is there to promote political correctness. Like the GTC it is a sharade of DCSF lookalikes. It ignores what teachers think and paints rosy pictures of schools which fail their pupils.

  2. Quite so. These goons are more interested in imposing a political orthodoxy than in honest educational assessment. So they blunder through their box-ticking exercise, gaily contradicting themselves, scarcely deigning to look in on the classroom and accepting soviet-style over-documentation (which they themselves have imposed) at face value.

    Then they serve up an indignant, misleading and perhaps libellous conclusion congenial to their own prejudices and those of their governmental masters. I have seen Ofsted at first hand on a number of occasions and rarely have I been impressed. They are an active part of that conspiracy which promotes school as a form of entertainment at the expense of hard, genuine learning. Out with conjugated verbs and times tables, in with “role play” and “projects”. Out, alas, with fluency in foreign tongues or the ability to add without a calculator.

    When studies from respectable establishments such as Durham university point out the decline in standards, we are fed the line that once pupils were “taught to pass exams” as though that skill were somehow separable from skill in the examined subject. The other tack is calling universities “elitist” – as if they should be anything else!

    In Ofsted we see an important brick in Labour’s pyramid of lies. They can’t close the grammars by ballot so they try to merge or inspect or otherwise squeeze them out of existence. Post that prize berk, Macpherson, the mere hint of “racism” (or an “inadequate response” to the mere idea of such a thing) is enough to shut an excellent school.

    I sincerely hope that one day the various corruptions, gerrymanderings, misleading leaks, reannouncements, false accusations and dark hints in which the modern left specialises are brought home to their authors. These people, wherever and whoever they are, belong in gaol.

  3. If the exam results are good and the children seem happy then the school must be good !
    That is my report without even seeing the school ; I feel absolutely certain however that my brief summary bears more resemblance to reality than the long and jargon laden report produced by Ofsted !


Keep up-to-date with all of our latest publications

Sign Up Here