Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ofsted Is Bad, but Poor Leadership Is Worse

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ofsted Is Bad, but Poor Leadership Is Worse

Article excerpt

Inspection time is when staff need guidance and reassurance most, but panicked managers often compound the stress and uncertainty

Even in the best circumstances, it's extremely stressful when Ofsted comes knocking. The scrutiny - and the consequences of that scrutiny - can bring the most stalwart and resolute staff member to their knees.

Regardless of whether everything is as it should be, a visit from the inspectorate brings with it self-doubt, anxiety and the fear that an arbitrary judgement could harm your students and the college - a place you may care about deeply. Life under the microscope can make you despair.

But at least you know what to expect. Although Ofsted inspections cause a great deal of pressure, there's a certain consistency in the way they unfold. They're unpleasant, but it's a familiar unpleasantness. And if a college is managed well, the hope is that the inspection will result in a fair judgement of the excellent things that are going on within. There may be a few nods to playing the game in order to sway opinion, but there's also an underlying faith that the hard work, organisation and dedication of all staff - from senior management down - will be recognised and reflected in the report and the grade. The expectation is that the inspection team will bring with them an open mind, no agenda and a modicum of fairness.

Out of sight, out of mind

But if somewhere isn't running as it should be, matters are very different. In an effort to find the cracks they need to paper over, terrified senior management turn their own magnifying glass on the college - angled in such a way that it catches the light and turns everything beneath it to a blackened cinder.

Like a child who, to avoid getting into trouble with the angry parent climbing the stairs to inspect their bedroom, throws toys and clothes willy-nilly into cupboards and boxes, this smacks of desperation. Instead of genuinely being put in order, the detritus is hidden out of sight in bulging cupboards and underneath beds, ready to go back to exactly how it was once the room is given a once-over. It's all about the surface. And it is hugely hypocritical.

This process can start with rumours of an Ofsted visit (those who may not have the wherewithal to get their house in order are often extremely wily in discovering such information). …

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