Next Ofsted chief would remove 'satisfactory' grade

02 Dec 2011

 The future head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, delivered an interesting and controversial speech this week which gave the strongest clues so far of where he wants to take the schools' inspectorate. I couldn't attend the speech, so couldn't check against delivery, but the full text is published  here

No more satisfactory

 Perhaps the most striking proposal was that the Ofsted category of 'satisfactory' should be removed. Sir Michael, who was speaking in his current role as the Director of Education for ARK Schools, said he did not like the satisfactory grade  'because it sends the wrong message to parents and others on the nature of acceptable provision'.

He added that 'if “satisfactory” is replaced with a simple grade 3, it would give inspectors the opportunity to use their judgement to describe standards of the school in depth; explain why it’s not yet a good school and what capacity it has for improvement. Some schools within this category that are not moving forward will, of course, be given a “notice to improve”.'

Incidentally, this idea seems to pick up from the suggestion made on this website in June by HMI Roy Blatchford, who argued for the ending of what he called 'grindingly satisfactory' teaching. Read his article here

District superintendents

There are some notable points in the speech, not least the recognition that - as the number of academies and free schools grows -  government 'cannot monitor or administer 30,000 schools from the centre'. This is an argument I made in a recent Guardian article

I argued then that the government will have to accept that it does need local education authorities to fulfil a local monitoring and improvement role. Sir Michael also sees a need for a local role, arguing that government 'does have a duty to put into place local checks and balances to satisfy itself that an increasingly autonomous system is held regularly to account'.

He adds: 'I’m sure policy makers are working on this as I speak. The idea of district superintendents or school commissioners responsible directly to the Secretary of State has already been floated and it is something that we should consider further.'

Ofsted to monitor teachers' dress

Finally, Sir Michael indicates that Ofsted will regard teachers'' dress-codes and demeanour as part of its remit. He says ' it is so important that teachers convey a professional image to young people whose perception of adults is so often determined by those things that we sometimes see as trivial – dress and demeanour'. So, he argues, Ofsted 'should feel free to comment on this as part of its overall evaluation of school performance, particularly, in relation to the quality of staff/student relationships'.

Heads' reports on individual teachers

Finally, in another suggestion likely to prove controversial , Sir Michael says head teachers should include in their regular reports to their governing bodies a summary of 'individual teacher performance'.

Ofsted to monitor teachers' pay

He also wants Ofsted to comment on the relationship between teachers' pay and performance. He believes Ofsted should 'comment on the link between the quality of teaching and salary progression, particularly to threshold and upper pay spine levels. If, for example, only 50% of lessons are judged as good and above in the inspection, but Ofsted notes that most staff have progressed to the next point on their salary spine, including threshold, inspectors need to ask whether the performance management system of the school is sufficiently robust and providing good value for money'.

User Comments

Rebecca Hanson - 02 Dec 2011

Oh dear

When this government came into power there was a sudden shift from people using the linguistic expression that 'a school that has achieved an Ofsted rating of good' to 'a good school'.

So much was lost at this point. The first turn of phrase is misleading while the second is, quite frankly, disturbing. This use of vocabulary sounds so plausible to those who haven't lived with the reality.

So it was my hope when I read your blog Mike that Sir Michael had understood this problem and was attempting to address it by ensuring that schools given numerical gradings rather than words which could be misinterpreted as being adjectives.

However this is not the case. He merely wants to remove the satisfactory label so that schools which achieve that grade can be deemed to be in need of further intervention from Ofsted.

I think the fact that he realised that local management in education is necessary doesn't do a great deal to enhance his credibility as the overwhelming majority of people in education understand that.

Sadly it seems that Sir Michael did not experience working in a good LA before Ofsted which is very sad.

A bigger, more powerful Ofsted which pays no heed to the law or substantial tracts of excellent practice in education is on the cards it seems. Onward Red Guard soldiers.....

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