I was on such a high this morning. Zipedee doo dah high. Seeing tweets from people skipping into work after Northern Rocks with smiles on their faces was fab. The sun was shining, I’d lost another pound, life was good…
Enter Sir Michael with his “radical” speech outlining yet more changes to the way schools are inspected. It felt like a right slap in the face I tell you. Having spent a day with Mike Cladingbowl and Sean Harford on Saturday, I was starting to warm to Ofsted. But it’s like finding out that the Ewoks you’ve been playing with are really under the power of Darth Vader. His speech was a shower of spite.
Firstly, he was ungracious and churlish about our neighbour’s education systems, not missing a chance to attack Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland with no mention at all of the fact that all of those nations are committed to far more than examination results – that they all are attempting to embed educations systems with humanity at their hearts. Instead he wants us to emulate Asian systems. With their children pushed through private tuition at a cost of tens of thousands to their parents? (well no, he didn’t actually mention that) With their high stress and suicide rates? (no he didn’t mention that either). He just wants us to be like them. Well perhaps he could start by emulating their trust in their teachers. Oh, wait…
I’m struggling to find mentions of teachers in his speech. Leaders, leaders, more leaders, good leaders, outstanding leaders….where are the teachers? For that matter where are the support staff, the caretakers, the family liaison officers? Seems they make no difference. All you need is a leader and….oh, a set of textbooks.
He trots out the time weary phrase “tougher subjects” like Brecht, Shakespeare, Laban notation, four part composition are pieces of piss. And no, I’m not apologising for swearing.
He has the gall – the bare faced, shameless gall to trot out this little statement without the slightest nod towards the significant cuts being placed on schools and crippling cuts being placed on colleges:-
“Do they refuse to accept excuses for underachievement and are they prepared to go the extra mile to compensate for family background?”
Do you know what the extra mile is Mr. Wilshaw? It’s providing food for kids who are going hungry, counselling services for those with mental health issues, cracking under the strain of the system, home liaison officers to support families struggling to get their kids into school….I could go on for another decade. The extra mile costs money and you blithely expect it while this government is binding our feet in cloths made of shards of glass. Walk the mile yourself in the aftermath of this funding crisis and see how far you get.
At no point when he rails against GCSE performance of boys from “poor” backgrounds (and how many times do we have to remind these people that being a poor parent does not mean that you are a poor parent) – at no point does he question whether the GCSEs are the problem, not the child. Not the school. Oh no.
He’s too busy advocating that we put up statues all over the place to honour these great leaders. Frankly, we’d rather have the money than have to jog past our Academy Executive Super Mario Heads in the town square every morning. That way we might be able to buy some bloody books.
He then has the cheek to suggest that the fact that this broken organisation has had to reform 22 times (and still hasn’t got it right) is a success and not an indication of its continuing failure. I can barely stop myself from cackling but I’m already scaring my children with my wild eyed disbelief and contempt.
I’ve read it over and over. Where are the teachers in your speech and vision Michael? Where is the humanity, the compassion? If I’ve ever been more angry reading a speech, then I don’t know when. I was open to listening to and engaging with Ofsted. I have very much liked the human face of Sean and before him Mike. But this is the real face. It is carved of stone. Unforgiving, uncompromising, uninspiring. I pray like Ozymandias, in the future, we’ll find the remnants of Ofsted lying forgotten in the desert.
Until then, I suggest we fight back. Challenge them when they come in. Act in the best interests of your kids. Play down the importance of the organisation – rip up those banners which, as Mick Waters pointed out on Saturday, play right into the hands of the oppressor. “Ofsted says we’re”….Who cares? Put up banners saying “Our parents say we’re….” “Our children say we’re….” Starve them of oxygen. Be open to your parents and prospective parents about the impact of Ofsted on the quality of the holistic education that their child should get. Bring them on side. Be brave. Be strong. Because an organisation this out of touch cannot last for long.