Quis custodiet……

It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the Henchman in Chief for Mr Gove has been offering his pronouncements again. As always he offers a mix of Gove-light isms and some sensible observation. The trick is spotting which is which.

Now, I’ve shared my somewhat jaundiced view of our standards watchdog before. I think they should be hauled before the advertising standards authority for misrepresentation of the term “standards” when what they mean is “policy compliance”. You can’t blame Sir Michael, I am sure he genuinely wishes to help the system improve, at least by his somewhat limited terms of reference, but would he have been chosen by his peers? I don’t disagree with some of his comments on staff who work for the pay cheque alone. If you hate kids and don’t want to go the extra mile, you have no place in the classroom. Our children deserve more, but – do you know what? So do we!

As a new teacher I naively believed the job of HMI was to help schools improve and to pick up on any real disasters before someone got hurt! My experiences of 4 inspections under a seemingly endless number of frameworks (standards….) have varied massively from supportive partnership to psychotic hatchet job. Having a Chief Inspector whose role is to act as means to undermine and bully the profession is nothing new, but why do we tolerate this when no other wing of public service would?

Our first mistake is to hold on to that naive belief that inspection is for improvement. Those days are long gone. It is a political tool used for accountability under the guise of improvement. How else do you explain the willingness to ignore the lessons learned from their own research on curriculum as a tool for engagement and raising aspiration / attainment? Do you remember “12 outstanding schools”? I do. I wonder if Sir Michael has read it? I’d be very surprised if Gove has!

Our second mistake is not to challenge OfSTED’s own standards more aggressively as a profession. We do need inspection but we need it fit for purpose and led by someone whose reason for doing it is determined by cultural capital and not by political affiliation and relationships. We also need someone who is truly independent and answers to parliament, not a Minister. After all, shouldn’t the Chief Inspector also be holding the DfE accountable, too?

Our third mistake has been to believe that this can’t change. Why accept it? As professionals, we should be prepared to show any bureaucrat, Minister or HMI, our displeasure when they act against evidenced best practice on the basis of ideological whimsy. We must be more politically astute in tackling the misinformation and barking target culture. Watch what the DfE do and turn it back on them. Fight fire with fire. We have the intelligence and expertise, after all, we literally taught them all they know!

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