Wednesday 19 June 2013

Failing OFSTED

Our Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED, or OFSTAPO as it is known by at least one of my ex-teacher friends) has just produced a report which claims that our non-selective state secondary schools are failing  their brightest pupils because 60% of them who did well in primary school, defined as achieving the top grades in their English and mathematics STATS (Standard Attainment Tests) at Stage 2 (the primary leaving year), fail to achieve the top grades five years later when hey take their GCSEs at 16+.

OFSTED was established over 20 years ago, in 1992, by the Major government, ostensibly to improve standards in education.  I wonder if if ever occurs to this bunch of pundits, mostly I suspect heartily glad to have escaped the chalk face in order to swan around in smart suits and tell other people what to do, to look into their own effectiveness.   (Matthew 7 verse 3 springs to mind.*) 

If after more than 20 years of their operations things are so dire should they not be wondering whether  or not they are "fit for purpose."?   My own solution would be to abolish the organisation with, instead of redundancy payments, guaranteed positions in inner city comprehensives for the displaced staff.  If that is too much to hope for (though it is analogous  with, though possibly even more draconian than,  the proposal announced this morning to imprison failed bankers) then OFSTED should be reduced in size, along with central government prescriptions and excessive testing, and a co-operative and supportive ethos be adopted to replace the present threatening approach of judging,  blaming and shaming.

In fact I suspect that before long someone  needing to publish a peer-reviewed  paper will show that the evidence on which the latest criticism is based is flawed.  Whatever it is that is measured by STATS Stage 2 at 11+ is probably not the same as what is measured in GCSE at 16+.  and in any case, as every practising teacher knows, and parents with more than one child know even better, different children develop, physically, intellectually and emotionally, at vastly different rates. "Late developers" can do a lot of catching up in five years, and those who shone at 11 can have peaked early.

It is in fact already well known that examinations of whatever sort are not good predictors of future performance.  For years it has been noted that those with the best A-levels do not necessarily get the best degrees.

*And why beholdest thou  the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? KJV


  1. Good point Peter, damning evidence of OFSTED's failures if its argument had any statistical validity, which it certainly doesn't seem to have. Similar complaint to yours made here:

  2. Well spotted, Jaime. That's interesting confirmation of my suspicions: we don't even have to wait for a peer-reviewed paper to point out the flaws in OFSTED's reasoning. I too noted that the reports were curiously silent on the failures of grammar schools. Along with Gove's creation of free schools and academies, this does seem to be part of a campaign to bring them back..