OFSTED & Gove (not weak teachers) the biggest problems in schools

What’s not to love about OFSTED’s Christine Gilbert. The White Paper on Education is upon us and no better way to keep the inspectors in business than to tell everyone how bad everything is.

champagne popping

What a load of nonsense. The only thing that’s really wrong with the UK’s education system – as we have said on many occasions – is OFSTED and the sooner it goes the better. Pronouncments like this are meant to scare people into thinking there’s a problem when there isn’t. They are without basis and it would be good if the press just ignored her, but given the poor state of education journalism in this country there’s not much hope of that.

It’s not as if OFSTED have any scientific proof for what amounts to a good lesson. There isn’t any. WE REPEAT: there’s no conclusive evidence that ANY strategy, tactic, activity or whatever OFSTED say is good has any impact on learning, and this is simply because these devices can never be isolated from other variables in the classroom. The upshot of this is that we have to rely on the teacher’s beliefs and relationships with the students and hope that this is working. There is nothing else.

Gilbert & Gove can talk about “dull and uninspiring” lessons but this can never amount to anything more than a subjective view. Now if G&G were to say: “we pay your wages, do as we say” then at least they are being honest but to dress their subjective hunches up as fact is just rubbish.

Regarding low expectations of pupils, where’s the evidence that this makes a difference to academic achievement? Where? It makes intuitive sense but the White Paper seems, like those before, to be just playing to the crowds, not science.

Again, where is it proven that teachers’ poor grasp of their subject leading to confused lessons is a problem? Intuitively it may be so but there needs to be a bit more than this for it to pass muster.

Apparently in the watchdog’s annual report, inspectors found 37% of teaching was merely “satisfactory”. But what the hell does that mean? Satisfactory to who? The inspectors? Surely it’s the views of pupils that count not clipboarders, but you’re not seriously telling us that you managed to get in the heads of school age kids are you G&G?

The quality was too “variable” and not good enough in half of England’s secondaries and over two-fifths of primaries, according to the report but in comparison to what? And are we STILL going on about quality in UK education. This word has been irreparably tarnished by what NuLab did to it. Haven’t we moved on from it now?!

And, ironically, if we were to take this report seriously as a scientific research then it doesn’t seem that bad after all. In fact it seems rather good. Seeing the glass half-full, more than half of schools (56%) were judged good or outstanding this year, with only 8% rated inadequate. And, despite the story that Gilbert & Gove are spreading about, there’s nothing wrong with teaching in the UK with 96% of it being seen as adequate or better.

To the Guardian, Gilbert said: “The weakest area, and the area that I am most concerned about, is teaching. In many of our good schools we see pockets of weaker teaching.” Yeah, but what does that mean in scientific terms?

She goes on to say: “There is too much teaching that is dull and uninspiring. This means that too many young people are not equipped well enough to make the best of their lives.” Okay, bad teaching is when it’s boring but that doesn’t fit logically. Just because a lesson is dull doesn’t mean it is a bad lesson – it is just that, dull.

What really gets our goat about Gilbert and cronies is that teachers are always to blame. Not OFSTED, of course. She’s careful to say that there’s been some improvement lest her organisation is seen as a waste of money. She can then divert attention away from the obscene amounts of money she and her chums are paid and focus on a profession that can’t still stick up for itself properly.

And, lo and behold, attacking teachers is exactly what she did: “they should be doing something about the weakest teachers…really poor and struggling.” No-one can disagree with that initially but we don’t have the foggiest what makes people learn and others not. We are absolutely clueless so we can’t be getting rid of teachers on the hunches of OFSTED. We need scientific research.

“I would always go for professional development first. If someone is well qualified enough to go into teaching, you have to work on the assumption that they are going to be good teachers and the school supports them to do that.” Oh, what a surprise. And who better placed to train poor little teachers than OFSTED.

What is also sickening is how Gilbert and OFSTED are now cosying up to the Tories. Their ‘report’ just so happens to highlight good performance in academies, with 20 of 43 deemed good, and 11 outstanding, “achieved by establishing very high and shared expectations across all classrooms. Learning is often highly structured, informed by teachers’ excellent subject knowledge.” When did expectations have anything to do with it, and structured learning? Surely controlling what kids learn is what we used to do and look where that got us!

The unions including the NUT quite understandably came to the defence of teachers but what are they going to do about it. Nothing. Just talk the talk and no more.

The White Paper proposes also to allow headteacher greater freedom to observe teachers by removing restrictions on time. In other words, constructive dismissal that we have spoken of in the past will just get worse. Your headmaster doesn’t like you. What does he do? Observe and undermine until the teacher has had enough of being undervalued at work and quits. Happens all the time.

If G&G really want to improve education they should think about behaviour instead. In the OFSTED report, behaviour is rated no better than satisfactory in 11% of primaries and 30% of secondaries and “in the minority of the schools where behaviour was poor, teaching was also frequently weak.” Go figure?! Bad behaviour + Education = a bad mix.

Do something about that mix Gove rather than harping on about downtrodden, overworked, underpaid, disrespected and stressed out teachers and you might be on to something.

You might also not alienate anymore teachers than you currently have. Or, better still, stick to journalism and let educationalists look after education.


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