Memorandum from Mr A Quinn (SQE 03)
I am an inspector and offer these observations
from first-hand experience. The emphasis of inspections has changed
since the new Handbook was issued in January 2000. Inspectors
are now under pressure from OFSTED and schools and are now almost
apologetic in approach for fear of upsetting someone. I have heard
schools describing an OFSTED inspection as free consultation.
There is far too much emphasis on regular feedback and negotiation
in the course of an inspection. Inspectors are losing their objectivitity
as a result.
The Framework requires that we are objective
and impartial but the procedures make these difficult to achieve.
Inspectors are in schools to observe first and then to make judgements.
The main and considered feedback should come at the end of that
and should be separate from the initial inspection process. Time
should be set aside after the week of inspection if consultation
is required and inspectors should be paid a fee for such work.
OFSTED makes unrealistic demands on inspection
teams. The process is fundamentally flawed because inspectors
have to cut corners to try to obtain objective evidence. The constant
reference to teachers, through feedback and discussions that the
Handbook envisages, impedes the process further.
An additional point is a complaint. OFSTED regularly
introduces new requirements in the inspection process with obligatory
training required. Inspectors are not able to practise without
this and yet they are expected to pay for it themselves. This
can amount to £200, with expenses, for a single day of training.
Government claims, on basis of improving
OFSTED reports, that standards in schools are rising are misleading.
The nature of inspections has changed.
The changes in the Handbook of 2000
have led to less objectivity by inspectors.
The largest single factor in this
is the requirement to feedback to teachers immediately (or soon
after) after a lesson is observed.
Many inspectors are now grading teaching
higher than they did previously because of the potential confrontation
Much unsatisfactory teaching is now
graded as satisfactory. The last OFSTED review states that only
one in 20 lessons is unsatisfactory now. This dramatic improvement
in so short a time is not credible and supports my contention
that inspectors are less objective in their judgements on teaching
The statistics of these higher teaching
grades thus recorded mean that other factors, such as pupils'
progress, attitude etc have to be correspondingly raised to support
the inflated teaching grades.
Many anomalies in the first-hand
evidence have to be adjusted to make both the report and the profile
in the Judgement Recording Form (JRF) coherent.
The grades in the JRF reflect the
adjustments rather than the true picture, in many cases.
OFSTED statistics depend on these
inaccurate grades in the JRF and are therefore flawed.
The objectivity of inspection can
be restored by an arm's length approach.