Why I support ‘no-notice’ inspections

It was recently reported by the Guardian, that Ofsted will be moving to a no-notice method for carrying out inspections. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/10/schools-no-notice-ofsted-inspections?CMP=twt_gu  a move which I completely support.

Due to the diverse nature of my teaching in 7 years I went through 3 Ofsted inspections, 2 QAA inspections, 1 ALI inspection and god knows how many internal inspections. Perversely I actually enjoyed the lesson in which I was being inspected – the pressure and the expectation I actually thrived on (similar to when I played more sport – I loved the big occasions, and performed at my best in front of the crowds). Apart from 1 internal inspection, I always came out very well in these observed sessions.

The thing that I didn’t enjoy was the build up to the inspections. The fact that the whole college went into a form of panic in the 6 months leading up to the inspection, which dominated everything, stopped any real innovation happening (I remember being told in no uncertain terms that I had to back off the ILT stuff as there was an inspection ahead and the college had to focus on that not ILT!), and all so that we can put an unrealistic ‘show’ on for the inspectors.

I believe that no-notice inspections is the only way forward – this will give inspectors a chance to see the reality rather than the rehearsed, and weaker teachers will be identified, whilst stronger teachers rewarded, and as such – I said it many times when I was teaching, and I still stick by it now – anyone is welcome to turn up and observe me teaching or training without giving me notice.

Taken from http://farm5.static.flickr.com/7021/6515869227_fb11e682ee_b.jpg on 2012-1-11
Original URL – http://www.flickr.com/29455658@N08/6515869227/ created on 2011-07-19 11:28:46
Connecticut State LibraryCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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2 Responses

  1. I do so agree, Dave, that the fear associated with impending OFSTED inspections is a major barrier to innovation. (And this view was confirmed last year by an electronic vote of those attending the Guardian’s ‘Innovation in Learning’ conference.)

    But my concern is this. Perhaps no-notice inspections will not remove pre-OFSTED panic (as you imply) but might make it a permanent feature of educational institutions. This could make innovation even less likely.

    Like you, Dave, I have always been happy for anyone to sit in on a lesson or training session of mine without giving notice. But if we really care about the quality of teaching and training the answer is not to extend this privilege to OFSTED inspectors but to abolish inspection (as we understand it) altogether. This is what they did in Finland nearly twenty years ago (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/nov/09/finland-values-teaching) and yet Finland consistently leads the world in the perception of the quality of its education. So it does not really matter whether inspectors give six months notice, two day notice or no notice. A centralised inspection system is a recipe for mediocrity, and if we want to rise above this we have to do what the best (i.e. Finland) does – value teachers rather than inspect teachers!

    So I was reassured that in his recent speech at BETT (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/11/digital-literacy-michael-gove-speech), Michael Gove said:

    … we’ve devolved greater autonomy to schools, and put our trust in the professionalism of teachers.

    He needs to show that he means what he says by following Finland’s example.

    And just think of how much innovation could be supported if OFSTED’s annual budget of some £220 million was given to schools and colleges instead.

    • I agree with your comments Terry, and wish that the inspection regime was changed altogether – especially as you identify as there are models out there (Finland) that we could learn from. I expect that this is too bold a step to be taken in the short term, and fear there is too much mediocracy within education, so our starting point wouldn’t be great if such a move was taken today.

      I don’t think an organisation could maintain a permenant state of panic about pending inspections, they would eventually have to accept that they need to get on and except the situation. What I would like to see is something within the inspection regime that does recognise and reward attempts to make things better (sometimes mis conceived as ‘risk-taking’), and talking more with the learners rather than looking at systems and paperwork – however saying that, I am conscious that learners are not always honest with inspectors, as fear personal reprocussions from the organisation if they say the truth if this is in someway negative.

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