Teacher Lynne Fox acquired a prestigious Pearson nationwide headteacher of the 12 months award final summer season. Judges praised her as a “tour de pressure” who had reworked her complete, Bramhall highschool, overcoming important challenges equivalent to funding cuts and workers redundancies to safe “the easiest academic expertise for college students”. The varsity, they stated, was “a vibrant atmosphere the place enthusiasm and creativity are inspired”, resulting in “excellent” outcomes.
Just a few weeks later, Fox discovered herself leaving a gathering with Ofsted inspectors in tears. “It was the one time in my skilled profession as a frontrunner that I’ve ever felt that unhealthy. That low.”
The watchdog instructed her Bramhall excessive – at present the second-highest performing faculty in Stockport, regardless of struggling price range cuts of £400,00zero over the previous three years – didn’t present a “good high quality schooling” and “requires enchancment”.
Fox, 58, who has calmly weathered 12 Ofsted inspections in her 17 years as a headteacher, was shaken to the core. “For 3 years working, when GCSEs have gotten harder nationally, our outcomes have bucked the development: we’ve got gone up and up in our outcomes. It simply doesn’t correlate. It’s so unjust.”
A month later, Ofsted then despatched her a unique, extra factual report summarising the varsity’s efficiency. It said the varsity was within the high 20% nationally for nearly all of its topics, and highlighted the “considerably above common” progress and outcomes college students obtain and the “sturdy tutorial basis” of the varsity’s curriculum. But it was the varsity’s curriculum Ofsted lambasted in its inspection report final time period. “The one factor that’s constant about Ofsted is that will probably be inconsistent,” says Fox. “It’s ludicrous.”
In September, the watchdog overhauled its whole inspection framework, asserting it was shifting its deal with to “the actual substance of schooling: the curriculum”. Now, even when a college is rated “good” by the inspector in all areas aside from “high quality of schooling”, it may be given a score of “requires enchancment”. That is precisely what occurred within the case of Bramhall excessive.
Inspectors discovered fault with the varsity’s choice to begin instructing pupils their GCSEs in 12 months 9, a 12 months sooner than normal, and criticised the breadth of schooling offered because of this. In addition they disparaged the varsity’s help for its most deprived pupils and people with particular academic wants, regardless of enhancements within the progress of those college students. “Now we have considerably narrowed the [attainment] hole for each these teams,” says Fox. “I’ll by no means be glad till we maintain transferring these figures up. However I really feel it’s unfair the report didn’t recognise the narrowing of that hole, and the work that has needed to occur, for that to happen.”
The federal government just lately introduced plans to extend Ofsted’s powers to hold out faculty inspections. Longer, extra detailed inspection visits are actually within the offing, together with extra frequent inspections for excellent colleges. In contrast, Labour’s manifesto had pledged to scrap Ofsted completely, amid studies of academics experiencing file ranges of stress.
For the reason that judgment was handed down, Fox has wanted additional help from family and friends and has had sleepless nights and recurring emotions of bitterness and frustration. “I’ve by no means felt so powerless as I do now.”
Difficult the report didn’t assist. In response, she says, Ofsted inspected its personal inspection and upheld its authentic score. Fox then requested the watchdog to share proof about the way it had reached its “astounding conclusions”. However she was instructed simply earlier than Christmas such a disclosure would “hurt potential future inspection actions” and was not within the public curiosity.
This proved the final straw and he or she introduced to workers and fogeys final week she was taking early retirement and can be leaving in the summertime. “I really feel completely disillusioned and offended. That isn’t wholesome for me – and it’s not in the perfect pursuits of the varsity.”
After the report was revealed, greater than 300 mother and father wrote to Ofsted praising the varsity and its impression on their kids, she says. “All our knowledge exhibits a three-year enhancing development. That ought to have been recognised. Our instructing is of top quality, our outcomes are sensible, our youngsters are engaged and our workers are hard-working.”
She is scathing of Ofsted’s autocratic strategy: “This course of has not offered us with something that can result in faculty enchancment. It’s simply brought on disillusionment throughout the varsity.”
An Ofsted spokesperson stated: “We’re saddened that the headteacher has made the choice to resign, particularly as our inspection staff judged the varsity’s management and administration pretty much as good. Past this the inspection report explicitly commented on the nice job that she and her senior workers had completed in enhancing the varsity. The report additionally recognised the varsity’s enhancements within the pupils’ behaviour, private growth and GCSE outcomes, whereas declaring the enhancements wanted to the standard of schooling. Nevertheless, we do perceive the power of feeling among the many faculty group in regards to the head’s departure.”
The watchdog added that whereas it doesn’t touch upon particular person complaints about Ofsted inspections, it handled all of them severely and investigates them totally. “As an accountability physique we recognise the worth of exterior scrutiny and we report on the dealing with of complaints annually in our Annual Report and Accounts. This exhibits that, the place applicable, Ofsted takes immediate steps to place issues proper when a criticism is upheld. If a college requests an inside overview it’s thought-about by a panel that usually consists of an exterior consultant who isn’t employed by Ofsted however is, for instance, a college chief. If a college continues to be not comfortable then it may well complain to the Unbiased Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted, which critiques the best way that we cope with complaints. And, extra broadly, Parliament scrutinises our work.”For Fox and her workers, these phrases will carry little consolation as they await the subsequent gruelling go to from Ofsted’s inspectors, which might happen at any time. “I’ve no religion left within the system,” says Fox. “You’ll be able to’t win. Ofsted is a machine you possibly can’t beat.”