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Under pressure?

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.

  1. March 19, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. March 19, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Great point about the role of inspection. I have shared here my idea for a reformed inspection service that exists to improve schools rather than judge them. Let me know what you think.

  3. Stevie D
    March 19, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    We went through a phase of carrying out a lot of mock inspections, but we’ve pretty much stopped that now. In the early days of the 2005 framework, they were a useful tool to help schools get used to the intense inspection process, but these days most schools have been inspected 2 or 3 times (or more) under the 2-day system and so are fully used to the way it works. We have good enough intelligence on what is going on in our schools that we don’t need an external perspective – we understand the framework and we know what we think schools should be coming out as. We had too many mock inspections that threw up random results, and too many where a real inspection shortly after gave a different outcome, to have any faith in the accuracy of the process (or the accuracy of inspections themselves). And it wasn’t even consistent – we had mock inspections that told us schools were on the cusp of good/satis that were judged inadequate, and we had mock inspections that told us schools were on the cusp of satis/inadequate that came out as good just a few weeks later. With untold stress on teachers and a cost to the LA of over £2000 a time, it really wasn’t worth carrying on with.

  1. November 24, 2015 at 5:27 pm

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