Memorandum from Louise Cuffaro and Sue
Giddens (OFS 05)
We are responding (as NUT school representative
and as teacher governor respectively) to inform the Commission
of concerns and issues that staff have raised with us during the
course of, and immediately following, our recent OFSTED Inspection.
We recommend the urgent introduction of more
time, better mechanisms and procedures to improve OFSTED inspections.
Such measures could include:
1. Adequate time for feedback to alleviate
the stress experienced by staff.
2. Delivery of a higher quality of feedback.
3. Time and procedures to investigate and
satisfactorily resolve complaints (and where necessary to amend
individual results and the written report) before publication.
4. Review criteria by which schools are
compared and ensure "a level playing field."
Staff feel unhappy about the lack of time for
proper and helpful feedback. Primary teachers have fully timetabled
days. Feedback during OFSTED is made more stressful because it
has to be squeezed in at playtime, dinnertime or in the switch
over from one lesson to another. Sometimes it is necessary to
wait until the end of the school day or even until the next day.
This lack of time (albeit acknowledged by the inspectors who themselves
are constrained by getting to their next observation or interview)
leads to inadequate and unsatisfactory feedback from the staff's
point of view.
Irrespective of when the feedback occurs, staff
feel that the lack of time leads to inadequate feedback both on
individual teacher's lessons and post holder interviews. Staff
wish to have qualitative and informative feedback which should
be advisory as well as inspectoral. The role of the inspectors
should be extended to ensure that inspections are not just for
the sake of inspection. Feedback could and should include practical
advice based on the inspector's own experience (gained through
teaching the subject themselves) and experience gathered during
the course of the other inspections that they have carried out
in primary schools "comparable" in area and intake etc.
During the Inspection
There are issues that arise for staff that give
grounds to pursue a complaint about the process or procedures.
E.g. the total length of one day's observation may be over ½
day but you cannot complain until after it has happened.
Such deviation from good practise has a knock
on effect on teachers not only for the rest of the day but also
for the rest of the OFSTED. Staff feel aggrieved that such scenarios
may skew their final grading.
After the Inspection
Staff receive slips of paper, that record the
lessons that were observed and their gradings. There is often
inconsistency between the oral and written feedback. There is
no direct, immediate and clear mechanism by which to resolve complaints.
Furthermore even if complaints are upheld or
found to be justified, the current procedures and timescale do
not prevent the publication of the final report. Staff suffer
unnecessary stress as a result of the publication of reports before
all complaints have been investigated and satisfactorily resolved.
The current system of banding schools together
solely by the criteria of the number of free school dinners is
inadequate. It takes no account of factors that effect many schools
Low uptake by many families of their
right to free school meals
High proportions of children for
whom English is a second language
High number of children recently
arrived in the country
Inclusion Policies (these differ
between L.A.s and effect the numbers of children with high levels
of Special Needs within classes).
These factors may not be prevalent, and/or the
data relating to them may not be available, in all areas but there
should be a way of taking them into account for schools where
they do occur.
Discussion between staff in our school and staff
in other schools shows that there is inconsistency between inspections.
Teaching is stressful.
Inspections are stressful.
On top of this, teachers are experiencing unacceptable
levels of stress during OFSTED, associated with the factors outlined
above. (OFSTED leads to teachers leaving, or wishing to leave,
We believe that urgent action, in line with
the above recommendations, would alleviate stress and enhance
the credibility of OFSTED amongst our staff and others.
OFSTED should be seen to be fair, consistent
and useful to schools. It should not be yet another or
even the worst - stress known to teachers.