Answering the Call

Another of my headteacher friends has received the dreaded OFSTED call. I always resisted the temptation to train for the Inspectorate as I just couldn’t imagine being someone schools dreaded hearing from; whom, when in school, staff avoided like the plague; and whose leaving was celebrated with a party!
Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are inspectors. They tell me their hands are tied by a slavish adherence to number-crunching and an obsession with logical, detached analysis. Data is a clever seductress, of course, and those fixated by it often hide behind such phrases as ‘What gets measured gets done’ or ‘People do what you inspect not what you expect’. This may or may not be true. What is certain is that an inspector who wishes merely to connect cognitively with numbers on a page or lines on a graph, can never fully grasp the truth behind the detail. At best, the data tells only half the story and, at worst, is a crude, dangerous weapon in that inspector’s hands. Having failed to come up with a process which measures what we truly value in education, it is hardly surprising that we are stuck with a system which only values what it can measure. Surely it is only through both emotional and cognitive connectedness with the dots and the digits that the tale can be fully told and the data truly understood. For behind every number lurks a story of heroic failure, of triumph over adversity, of outstanding achievement, missed opportunity or success against the odds. The day the Inspectorate can grasp that and be genuinely interested in the tale every school has to tell, is the day I might consider sending for the job details.

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