It seems that schools will continue to have 48 hours notice of inspection. A cheer for Mr Gove! The chance that Heads may be missing for inspections has been averted.
Any guest walking into our school on any given day would observe outstanding learning taking place. I am confident that anyone with any experience in education would sense it immediately. So why did the prospect of no-notice inspection so vex the profession? Respected educational commentator and Tweeter, Geoff Barton argued for no-notice inspections in his blog post, whilst acknowledging he may be a lone voice (#couldbetheendofaniceweekend).
In my opinion, Headteachers need to be present when Ofsted call. During our last inspection, there were 3-4 interactions that could not have been delegated and we have an outstanding team. There was a surprise safeguarding issue and an unplanned fire alarm evacuation, requiring quick judgement and visible leadership when the school was under pressure; the lead inspector wandered in and out of my office with disheartening parental questionnaires raising issues that only I could say with confidence hadn’t been brought to the school’s attention previously. And only I could make the judgement to call in the lead inspector, sensing that something was being missed in the narrative they were building. Many school leadership teams are outstanding and the head is part of that team; their absence would be felt.
Inspectors take less than 48 hours to make their judgement. They miss things.They aren’t as familiar with context and the judgements they leave schools with have a lasting impact. It would be an act of extraordinary hubris for a Headteacher to remain at a distant conference with Ofsted unpacking in the school car park saying, “I practise distributed leadership; they’ve got everything under control back at the ranch.”
Children’s education will not be harmed by this change. In fact, it could be argued that removing the permanent anticipation of no-notice visits, when your school falls into the window for inspection, may mean teachers feel a little less embattled and slightly more creative. I don’t think teachers need this lingering threat. They do a great job because they’re professionals, not because they’re scared of sudden observations. The idea that 48 hours notice gives schools enough time to concoct some kind of alternative reality is actually quite insulting.
Let’s not call it a u-turn. We need to encourage politicians to listen to the profession and adapt their policies (especially when they’re being made so quickly).This is a welcome adjustment from Mr Gove.