I seem to be reading a lot lately about “Mocksteds”, these mock inspections that seem to be all the rage, and other seems to me that they can cause more damage than good. I have a number of friends who have been subjected to these over the last few months, all felt heavily pressured, all felt they had had their already massive workloads increased and some felt undermined and have lost confidence in themselves. I can’t imagine any of these are positive outcomes for the schools.
So you think it’s all nonsense?
No, I can see there may be a need to review and evaluate a school, it’s the manner in which it is often done that I take issue with. Part if the philosophy in my school is that the “why” and the “how” are as important as the “what”. The reasoning behind the review should be shared, and when designing the how staff welfare should be taken into consideration. During my career so far I’ve been through Ofsted inspections, internal “mock inspections”, external “mock inspections”, internal “reviews” and external “reviews”. On the face of it, the latter four seem very similar but in reality there can be a major difference.
We had an external review in the winter term, it lasted a day, reasoning was shared beforehand, and it seemed like the senior leadership had gone out of their way to ensure that staff remained relaxed about the process, while still putting their best foot forward. The process went well and I didn’t notice any colleagues crying in the cupboards.
On the other side, I have a friend who teaches at a different school who has recently been through a “mocksted”, she was put under an immense amount of undue pressure and was left questioning her own practice.
I have friends at another school who have been through a series of events that would test the strongest of people. They are expecting Ofsted, so are in the midst of Ofsted fever, they are being hit with no notice “Marking” scrutinies, they had an external company come in to do a mock inspection to ensure they are ready, and had an internal review conducted by SLT from within their Academy chain to make sure they were ready for that. If ofsted come next week that’s three two day review processes in a term. One staff member received 5 observations in 6 days. As if teachers weren’t under enough pressure.
The worst though, is this harrowing account, where school staff were told that Ofsted were here, but actually it was an external review team conducting a mocksted. A fact not shared until after the inspectors had left.
What are the outcomes
If a review is conducted in the right manner it will find areas to develop for the school, it will build teachers confidence in themselves and their leadership and will ultimately improve outcomes for the learners in our care. If a review is conducted wrongly it can lead to increased stress, reduced confidence, reduced staff well being, increased workload and can lead to learners getting a raw deal.
Of course we need to know how are schools are performing, we need to know where staff strengths and weaknesses are in order to tailor our development plans, but it doesn’t need to be a painful process.