In the world of education, it’s sadly predictable that we seem to have several warring factions.  We’ve got the government fighting with the unions, parents and kids… Safe to say no-one is safe really.

One of the ones I wasn’t expecting to flare up is Ofsted and school heads.  You’d think that they’d just be nice to each other.  After all, we live in a system so devoid of character and based entirely on inspections and data that it wouldn’t surprise me if they sat around and cuddled each other.  Proverbially of course.

Sadly I seem to be a little delusional if I actually thought that.  The whole thing of inspections and constantly trying to meet targets means that teachers and headteachers are often under quite a lot of stress preparing and having different plans and reports ready.  I bet many headteachers don’t always agree with Ofsted’s judgements either – it’s inevitable that some will be confident of their successes in a way that Ofsted don’t appreciate.  Likewise, I think in some cases headteachers will not feel the same way about some of the criticism levelled against their schools.

I have always been a supporter of high standards in schools but at the same time been rather critical of how we go about ensuring it’s actually the case.  Ofsted has long in my view been to the detriment of eduction and the extreme target-setting and data usage has made it impossible for teachers and schools to actually concentrate on giving good education.

I have in previous posts made it clear on my view: that Ofsted really needs to change the way it works – perhaps we can start with actually making sure the inspectors are actually accredited and qualified.  Pretty basic stuff, you’d think.  Headteachers are also reported to be unhappy with Ofsted’s plans to inspect schools without any warning, known as ‘no-notice inspections.’  According to a group of heads, the inspections treat schools like naughty children and that it ‘stifles creativity’ – all thanks to the controversy over the Trojan Horse  plot in Birmingham.

Well, fast forward to the day of writing: Ofsted seems to have embroiled itself in yet another disagreement with teachers – this time they’ve decided to accuse teachers of being complacent of poor behaviour and to ‘accept it.’  Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw is set to announce recommendations on how to improve what is being described as troubling standards of behaviour in schools.

Brian Lightman, head of the Association of School and College Leaders has said that the evidence doesn’t really stack up to the conclusion that Ofsted have come to – one that warms of too much low-level disruption in classrooms.

According to the report, Ofsted is to warn of some fairly standard disruption that has become familiar in classes:

  • Pupils ‘chatting’
  • ‘Messing around’
  • Playing on mobile phones

OK, so for some reason this is new.  Not only is the wording rather vague, but it also really doesn’t serve as much surprise to me.  It seems strange that Ofsted has chosen this time to highlight such issues – we’re now a few weeks into term and so schools are trying to get into course material and the like.  Of course, you could argue that concentrating on the course and ‘messing around’ go hand in hand with each other but surely if they had anything to say on the subject it would have been wiser to say it at the beginning of the year rather than waiting to create a distraction.

I also don’t really think any of the listed problems are really new to anyone.  I mean, obviously low-level disruption to lessons is not something you need but if this is new to Ofsted then you do have to wonder how many years behind they are.  I mean, chatting in class is something I did when I was 11 years old.  I’m not sure what they mean by ‘messing around’ but doubtless there’s a clever definition that defines anything that isn’t silent hard work as messing about – in which case we’re all guilty of and always have been.

I guess the pain point that has to be made is that Ofsted has accused teachers of not doing enough to tackle poor behaviour and that there is a “culture of casual acceptance.”  Naturally there has been a bit of backlash over these comments – clearly a few people are not at all happy…

  • Mr Lightman was quoted by the BBC as saying “If low-level disruption is as widespread as he says, it certainly isn’t backed up by inspection grades, which show that pupil behaviour is one of the strongest aspects in schools.”
    Mr Lightman went on to add that the comments to the profession of teaching no favours and that “recruitment into the teaching profession is more difficult than at any time, and a profession which is unfairly criticised is hardly likely to attract the best and brightest graduates.”
  • Chris Keates, the General Secretary of the NASUWT teacher’s union, said that polls by her union suggested that there was indeed a problem with low-level disruption.  However, she firmly denied the notion that teachers were not doing anything to resolve the issue.  She said that “The Chief Inspector is, as usual, talking nonsense to suggest that teachers teachers accept this and are failing to address it.”

Well, it seems pretty definitive, doesn’t it?  I would be curious to see if Sir Michael actually does any inspections personally and if Ofsted get to see what it’s like every single day in schools.

I agree with the notion that there can be minor disruption in schools and classrooms, but I stand with the unions and teachers in saying that teachers know how to deal with it and exercise that experience and power.

It’s bad enough teachers getting criticism from every direction, let alone from the people you’d expect to be there to build towards the future.




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