The anonymous education blogger @OldAndrew advises that putting ‘OFSTED’ in the title of your blog post helps attract views.
Not one to mess around, this is what I have now done, and to make things harder for myself I’ve limited it pretty much to OFSTED and blogging, but added a hash tag for twitter. And for good measure here is a hastily drawn visual of the 6 magical letters.
Why does this term attract so much attention, particularly amongst the education community in England?
We have a state schools inspectorate in England called Ofsted (in full, Office for Standards in Education) which is feared by many in the teaching profession and loved by politicians, parents and other external stakeholders. I’m not sure where students stand on it, but I suspect their views are mixed and possibly influenced by others.
Why the fear?
Because a 24-hour notice Ofsted snapshot inspection of a state school can change careers. This is perhaps not as extreme as in parts of the USA where a parent trigger law can bring the wrath of a local community directly down on a principal if his or her public school doesn’t do well enough for its children (in California this is automatically linked to their test performance).
An Ofsted report can be either a blessing or a curse. Get a top grade and your school will be showered with praise and parents will flock to it. A grade at the other end and the opposite will happen. I’m not quite sure about the mid-scale at the moment.
Ofsted certainly influenced my decision as a parent when deciding on state primary and secondary schools for our daughter, which is where the ‘love’ bit comes in (many politicians and employers are parents after all). Of as much influence, however, was looking at other sources of information about education and speaking with my daughter, wife and other parents, and getting to know the head.
How do I know I was right in our choice of schools?
I used the triangulation of evidence from a range of accountability sources (see more on such issues here). I studied history to postgraduate level and assume I was reasonably well taught, plus I had acquired experience in education policy analysis. But I now accept that I may have been overly influenced by high personal stakes involved and that evidence can change over time.
I hope Ofsted inspectors have the courage to acknowledge this.