An inspector calls, but misses the point about education

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From: Miss W Mary Lister, Almsford Oval, Harrogate.

ALMOST every week another pronouncement regarding Ofsted and Yorkshire schools – Yorkshire is to have fewer outstanding schools and more being placed in special measures.

Morale among teachers is at its lowest. As a retired headteacher, I am alarmed at what is happening with Ofsted’s tight control. I feel the last schools bulletin in 1974 at Sir Alec Clegg’s retirement contains so much wisdom and real understanding of education. These are my own thoughts as well as Sir Alec’s valuable remarks.

During the “golden years” in education, Sir Alec was the inspiration for the West Riding of Yorkshire teachers.

He understood and encouraged his teachers to develop those qualities in children which are not labelled intelligence or memory. Rather they could choose what they did from a range of activities carefully controlled by their teacher. The time spent on creative and expressive work trained their imagination, the teacher being at pains to excite them with new and worthwhile experiences, encouraged them to talk and write and paint and draw, with no mention of marking out of 10, so creating in some, inevitable failure.

Instead of spending time really getting to know the children and the children working closely with their teacher, in Ofsted “education”, a teacher will be filling in forms, ticking boxes thus filling more space in overloaded cupboards.

It is Ofsted who have introduced all this often unnecessary paperwork. It is Ofsted who decide who are the schools, who are the teachers who have not reached a certain score and are put in “special measures”. It is absurd to assume a child reaches a certain stage at a certain time.

In education there is never a borderline, just a borderland. And the true measure of how a child is progressing relates to a child’s potential.

Children vary considerably in their progress. Many slow learners who eventually “get there” through sheer hard work explain The Hare and the Tortoise story nicely.

Who decides what appears on the endless tests? The climate of fear and judgement engendered by Ofsted is creating a very serious problem of low morale. You could call it a reign of terror.

When will Ofsted recognise the harm being done? When will real education be introduced again? Details of the system should be made public.

Can those “blacklisted” be suffering from nerves? Why are so many put in this position? This situation never appeared in Sir Alec’s day.

How many Ofsted inspectors have ever taught at primary level? Endless criticism is doing long term harm.

Soon there will be a new medical term – Ofsteditis – much of what has been written here has been spoken by the man now urgently needed, a true educational genius, a champion of the disadvantaged. There was high morale in his day. Are any of “Clegg’s lot” as the West Riding teachers unceremoniously but proudly, call themselves, still here?

From: D Cook, Parkside Close, Cottingham.

APPARENTLY, Ofsted has announced that it is scrapping the “satisfactory” rating in schools and having no notice inspections. No wonder headteachers are dismayed.

Publicly labelling a school as “failing” benefits no-one, least of all the children who should be their major concern. In Hull a school recorded its best-ever GCSE results yet was still put on special measures.

Where weaknesses are perceived, they should be dealt with in a sensitive manner (Yorkshire Post, May 7). I have never heard of any inspector willing to show how lessons should be given or one who gave examples of how to deal with difficult pupils.

The poorer a lesson is, the more important it is that a better demonstration needs to be given,

Once labelled as “failing” how difficult it must be to recruit any good experienced staff. Headteachers tend to move on. Older teachers will seek early retirement, established teachers will look to move elsewhere, until eventually only weak, new and part-time staff are available.

Parents vote with their feet, numbers dwindle – a receipe for another disastrous report and early closure.

Apart from Ofsted inspectors, no-one is perfect. This should be understood and taken into consideration. We all glow when praised and wilt under criticism. Inspectors used to see their role as helping staff and encouraging children. Now they seem more concerned with justifying their existence and making a lucrative return visit.

When the cost of any inspection is more than a year’s salary for an experienced teacher, one has to ask – which brings the greatest benefit to a school?