Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Next Chief Inspector Signals Change of Tack for Ofsted

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Next Chief Inspector Signals Change of Tack for Ofsted

Article excerpt

Spielman ditches Wilshaw's 'shoot-first' approach in favour of asking questions and listening to teachers

Ofsted's next chief inspector has signalled a significant change in approach for the inspectorate by canvassing opinions on how it should improve.

Amanda Spielman also said she was "conscious" of long-running concerns about the validity of the watchdog's inspections, when she addressed teachers at the ResearchED conference in north London at the weekend.

The incoming chief inspector, who will start her new job in January, began the session by saying that she would "not be making a speech about the future direction of Ofsted", because she was keen to hear what other people wanted to see from the inspectorate.

Her listening approach comes in marked contrast to that of the organisation's current head, Sir Michael Wilshaw. He used a TES interview, months before he began the job, to warn that he would use his time in the role to tackle "poor teaching in our schools" in "a very clear, unequivocal manner".

Gun-slinging character

Sir Michael, who likened his preferred leadership style to a gun-slinging character played Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider, went on to question whether teachers should receive automatic pay rises and to suggest that Ofsted should comment on staff standards of dress - all before he started as chief inspector.

On Saturday, instead of firing warning shots, Ms Spielman asked teachers how the inspectorate might be improved. She then sat on the front row of the packed room and listened to a succession of speakers setting out what they felt was wrong with Ofsted.

Among the most pressing of concerns raised was the reliability and validity of Ofsted's inspection judgements.

The issue has long been an area of serious concern for the inspectorate, which has already carried out a major purge of inspectors to try to address the issue.

Becky Allen, director of Education Datalab, argued that "systematic changes are needed to ensure that Ofsted inspectors can give consistent and effective judgements". But she suggested there was an inexpensive way for Ofsted to improve.

The academic said that while inspectors received some training before heading out into the field, not enough was done to ensure consistency. And she said that Ofsted should look to the US for inspiration on how to improve its practice.

"In the US, lesson observers are required to watch hundreds of videos until they can consistently come to the same judgements on each lesson," she said. …

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