News

‘Inadequate’ school named after losing £100k legal challenge to gag Ofsted

Ofsted


A school which lost a £100,000 legal battle to gag Ofsted from publishing an ‘inadequate’ inspection report has been named.

Lady Lumley’s School, in Pickering, North Yorkshire, was graded ‘inadequate’ by the school watchdog during an inspection in October last year.

The local authority-maintained school said it fought the judgement as it wrongly portrayed pupils as “endemically” racist and homophobic.

I could not see any justification for spending over £100,000 of public money to challenge Ofsted in the High Court

Lady Lumley’s was granted an anonymity order in January to prevent publication of the report while it fought for an interim injunction. However, last month it lost a High Court appeal for the injunction and the report was published on Tuesday.

The report said pupils were concerned about regular use of racist and homophobic language around the school that “is not always challenged” by staff.

Greg White, the North Yorkshire County councillor for Pickering, said he “could not see any justification” for spending “over £100,000 of public money to challenge Ofsted… That money was provided to fund children’s education.”

He has asked the council to investigate how “such expenditure had been authorised, to use their powers to prohibit any further spending on fighting the report’s publication and to consider replacing the governing body with an interim executive board”.

Parents were told in a letter on Monday, from chair of governors Stephen Croft and headteacher Richard Bramley, that the legal challenge cash was “already in the school budget and the school still remains in a sound financial position”.

The letter read: “We are deeply upset by this report and the process which produced it… We know our pupils are not endemically racist or homophobic and we know our staff would not tolerate such behaviour”.

However, on the back of the ‘inadequate’ grade the local-authority maintained school will now be forced to become an academy and join a trust.

The secondary school was rated as ‘good’ in 2016, and the school argued that dropping to ‘inadequate’ in three years “cannot be justified on any rational basis”.

The report highlights positive aspects, for example rating the quality of education as ‘good’

But inspectors said a “large minority of pupils do not feel safe in school. They do not feel protected from bullying. They do not believe that there is an adult they could talk to if they were worried about anything.

“They are fearful of, and are fed up with, the behaviour of a small group of pupils… They are not confident that leaders will sort any of this out.”

The school has since commissioned a review of safeguarding and dedicated more staff time to pastoral support.

Croft and Bramley also lamented the lack of an “independent ombudsman or equivalent” when dealing with complaints against the inspectorate.

Under a new complaint system proposed by Ofsted earlier this year, it will withhold publication of inspection reports until it has resolved these complaints.

However in the current system, schools have to submit formal complaints within 10 days of an issue of concern, but Ofsted does not normally withhold publication of reports while it considers complaints.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “The school leaders disputed our findings. Ofsted was successful in the High Court and in the Court of Appeal, and legal proceedings are now concluded. We are pleased we are now finally able to publish the report, which speaks for itself.”



Your thoughts

Leave a Reply to Dr Richard House Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

20 Comments

  1. Mark Watson

    I would hazard a guess that the majority of schools graded “Inadequate” don’t agree with the decision, and could come up with any amount of reasons why they disagree with the findings. That’s human nature and understandable. In most cases the relevant individuals pick themselves up and set about improving things – even if Lady Lumley’s don’t think their children are “endemically racist and homophobic”, I hope they would recognise that there is scope for improvement in these areas (because I would think there is such scope in virtually every school). So put out a public statement saying how disappointed you are in Ofsted, how you strongly disagree with the findings, and how your kids are wonderful paragons of virtue. Then knuckle down and make sure that things get better in time for the next inspection.

    But to throw £100,000 away on a legal challenge shows an incredible failure in the system. Who specifically made the decision to waste this money – the Governors or the Council?

    • Richard House

      Just catching up with these posts. Re Mark Watson’s post of June 17 (4.15 pm): first, re “I would hazard a guess that the majority of schools graded ‘Inadequate’ don’t agree with the decision…” And they’re very likely right not to agree – because, like most sensible educationalists, they challenge and refuse to accept the very raison d’être of such an insultingly simplistic, managerialist grading system for schools (see Frank Coffield’s excellent work on this issue, for example). Next, re “In most cases the relevant individuals pick themselves up and set about improving things” – or in other words, because of the way the system is set up (and schools are “set up” by it – see below), they see no alternative but to comply with an enforcer regime that arrogantly assumes it is always right, and which is determined to impose its will, willy nilly. Next, re “So put out a public statement saying how disappointed you are in Ofsted, how you strongly disagree with the findings… and make sure that things get better in time for the next inspection” – The problem with this suggested approach is that in so doing, one would be de facto colluding with and accepting the Ofsted enforcer regime and its attendant ideology. What do schools and principled educationalists do when they reject the whole basis of Ofsted and its approach to disciplining schools and enforcing its own ideology on to them?
      And re “…to throw £100,000 away on a legal challenge shows an incredible failure in the system” – hear hear! – but far from it connoting a ‘waste of money’, what it in fact demonstrates is the total inadequacy of a system whereby the only effective way in which wronged, abused and bullied schools can seek redress is through the law courts. That’s not the fault of schools but of the DfE, which has abjectly failed to put in place an independent, NON-legalistic framework for dealing with such disputes – and one which is not shoe-horned into the insufferably narrow legalisms of the judicial review process – which effectively relieves Ofsted of any systematic democratic scrutiny for the totality of its behaviour and practices. Of course it serves the government very well to have the system it has that leaves legal action as the only option, because they and Ofsted know that it will deter the vast majority of schools from challenging them, even when schools are convinced of the unfairness of their treatment. And so, surprise surprise, we get 99+ per cent supine compliance with the Ofsted enforcer system – which is precisely what the government wants, and is why the system is as it is.

      • Mark Watson

        Rather than going back and forth with technical arguments, one simple question for Richard.

        Do you think some schools are run badly?

        Appreciating there is a massive theoretical debate that can be had over how “badly” can be interpreted, but as a general concept we all know what I mean. Do some schools fail their children?

        If you agree, do you think the organisations in question would agree that they are failing the children? And what should be done with these schools?

        • Richard House

          Very valid and important question, Mark. Setting aside for a moment the argument that different philosophies and pedagogies would likely have very divergent views on what constitutes a ‘bad’ or a ‘good school’ – yes, everything has its bell-shaped ‘normal distribution’ curve, with a few excellent, a few poor – and most somewhere between the two, across a wide spectrum of quality. But where there IS a school that’s perceived as not doing well, it should always be an open question as to why this might be – there can be a whole host of very different and complex reasons as to why a school might not be doing well.
          If we had a respectful School Review accountability process here (as they do in Aotearoa NZ, for instance), which was widely perceived as being supportive, helpful and wanting to help schools improve, rather than one that is punitive, shaming and universally feared, such schools would then be far more likely to be open and non-defensive about their shortcomings, and so open to seeking help and support to improve. As I said in another post, schools are hugely complex human systems, endeavouring to ‘deliver’ what Sigmund Freud rightly termed one of the ‘impossible professions’ – and now they’re also expected to be a quasi social-service, an enforcer of safeguarding law and responsible for social mobility too! That is, right-wing governments delight in disowning all these State responsibilities, offloading them on to schools, and then have an enforcer-organisation that hammers them if they don’t ‘deliver’. Future historians of education will look back on these recent decades, and ask how on earth was this appalling accountability system allowed to exist for so long.
          Sorry about the rant.

          • Mark Watson

            No need to apologise, ranting is good thing. (Or at least it can be!)

            There is always another country that one can point to and say “they do it better”, whether we’re talking about education, education inspection or more widely social integration, transport, alcohol and drug problems etc. However often the reason another country does better at something isn’t a single, simplistic thing but is as a result of many different things, including the specific characteristics and history of that country. New Zealand is a country who’s population is 8% of England and Wales and they have 10% of the number of schools, but these are spread over an area that’s 1.8 times bigger. Before you even take into account geography, immigration, climate, employment, society etc. I would suggest you can see that the two countries are so different that saying you could pick up one small and distinct element – the School Review accountability process – and replicate it here expecting it to have the same results is simply not going to work.

            Now of course I’m not saying Ofsted is anywhere near perfect, and any organisation can always be improved, especially in such an incredibly difficult field. We can, and should, look at systems which are performing better and look to take parts of that system and use them to improve our own.

            But as part of your post shows (“right-wing governments delight in disowning all these State responsibilities”) you come at this from a political/philosophical angle which I understand as being, and pardon the gross simplification, teachers know best and should be left to get on with it, and where they’re veering slightly off track they should be nurtured and gently encouraged to improve.

            That may play well in the teaching community, but outside of that I don’t think society as a whole agrees. As a whole I think doctors and nurses (analogous to teachers) are great people who know the business of healing and care better than anyone, but Harold Shipman and Stafford Hospital show that things can go very wrong. And when they do, I for one want it recognised, acknowledged and something done about it asap. (Apologies if that sounds like the Daily Mail – it’s not intended to.)

            All of us posting on these threads, me included, are debating these points on a hypothetical basis and come at them with our own preconceptions and beliefs. With one exception – Marie, who’s comments are below.

            Now obviously I can’t speak for Marie, and I hope she forgives/corrects me if I’m talking out of line, but she is the only one here who has direct knowledge of what happened at this particular school and from what she says it doesn’t sound good. If she’s right, there were significant problems with the senior leadership and how they dealt with pupils as individuals. As senior, experienced professionals I would contend they shouldn’t need someone to “support” them and encourage them to improve their behaviour, they should have known it was wrong and corrected it themselves – most teachers wouldn’t have acted like them, and if they did they would address it because they would know. How best to put a stop to this, and to put a stop as quickly as possible to stop other children having the same experiences, is surely the issue here.

            Whatever your political persuasion, the fact is that public services – be it education or health – are services for society as a whole, not just for the practitioners. Whether it’s a good thing, or a bad thing, how these services are delivered is a decision for the public at large who elect Governments and pay taxes. If the Conservative party won the last election it means the country preferred their approach to the alternatives. (And yes I know there are many good arguments as to why, if you look at it in a specific way you can explain why that’s not the case, but that’s what we all do when “our” party doesn’t win. I can’t remember many Labour supporters pushing proportional representation when Blair was winning landslides, just as no Conservatives are doing now). My laboured point is that society as a whole wants inspection, and like it or not they seem to think Ofsted is doing well.

            According to the 2018 YouGov poll. 68% think Ofsted improves standards of education and 65% think Ofsted is a reliable measure of a school’s quality.

            If you want a seismic shift in how school inspections are carried out then I would suggest it needs people to come out of the teachers bubble and explain to us, the public at large, why and how it can be improved. And to be blunt, saying “leave it to us, we know best” won’t work.

  2. My children attend Lady Lumley’s.
    One of whom identify as pansexual.
    I did not speak with nor offer any opinion in relation to the Ofsted inspection. This was due to my own negative experience of the way senior staff members dealt with certain personal issues, which left myself as a parent feeling very much like and understand completely, ‘the large minority ‘,

    I do hope they move on from denial, accept that there are problems, and improve.

  3. Felicity Leslie

    Mark Watson I don’t know if you are a teacher, in school or in OFSTED or have been in a school & judged by OFSTED?
    Unfortunately OFSTED has been criticised for many years over what it has done….or failed to do. One can realise some of this from having taught / been in schools but also from looking on Wikipedia & elsewhere.
    You may feel it is wrong to have spent money on fighting their corner but the school probably had some legitimate reasons for this and a lot of this would be in regards to the pupils.
    If you have seen all of the comments to date by OFSTED / previous OFSTED ‘ chiefs’ & some others you might think that all children have had no education from 23rd March to date. And that teachers are not willing to go back into schools etc.
    Do you or OFSTED know what it is like in schools during March to now? Teaching from home ?
    Regarding OFSTED most schools should have the opportunity to question an OFSTED report but there has been an ever growing realisation for many years that schools can question but often this is totally ignored.
    Have you looked at all of the complaints against OFSTED to date ?
    Do you know how much an OFSTED inspection actually costs?
    Do you know how much an OFSTED ‘chief ‘ is paid which comes from money, I guess for education? eg Sir Michael Wilshaw was paid
    £ 195, 000 – £ 199,000 pa.
    Plus all the others supposedly overseeing education & how many of them there are?
    Most Additional Inspectors were not linked to education and working with or teaching children.
    I do not know of this school but in over 23 years of teaching I saw the most bizarre reports & comments & judgements etc made from many OFSTED teams & schools just had to ‘ take it’. True or not.
    Also it is known that there is a desire by some to establish academies & to ‘ do away with ‘ other types of schools. I think one needs to be aware of what is behind not only a school doing something like this, the reasons behind it and also what exactly OFSTED are, comprised of & their reasons behind a lot of what they do.
    The amount of money/ waste of money that has been allocated to certain people in ‘ education’ & into constant writing & re – writing the curriculum & revising & re – revising it plus the cost of SATS etc & then abandoning them in some year groups & areas of the UK is a scandal and has deprived the children & schools of funding etc.
    Initially I thought that the National Curriculum would be great & that OFSTED would help to assess schools accurately & give help, support & advice to schools, as the advisors & some HMIs did prior to 1988. Sadly this is not what has happened & those with certain political or educational views have ‘ taken command’.
    Schools & education should be set up & be there for all children with their best interests at heart & an understanding of them etc and also
    ‘ feedback’ from them & teachers.
    And not with the serious criticisms of the UK education system & what the government have imposed on teachers & schools, from Andreas Schleicher & the PISA results, as recently as Dec 2019 & since 2009 / 2010 & the UN over children’s rights etc.

    • Mark Watson

      I have made the comment before, on other pages, that every single profession dislikes/despises/discounts their regulator.

      Whether its a care home that’s been slammed by the CQC, a financial adviser criticised by the FCA, a barrister held to account by the Bar Standards Board, or an agency told off by the Advertising Standards Authority. Any profession that is regulated by an external agency thinks they don’t know what they’re doing and are out to get them – “they don’t know what it’s really like doing the job” etc.

      So if you want to go off and Google it, and especially if you browse websites full of people within a profession, it won’t be long before you hear nightmare stories about “the Regulator”.

      The fact is, no-one likes being told they’re not doing a good job. I presume we can all agree that there are some schools which aren’t doing a good job for their children. Out of 24,000 odd schools that’s got to be the case. But how many times have we heard a school, after being rated Inadequate (or even Requires Improvement), saying “yup, fair enough, we’re not doing a good enough job here”.

      However experience has shown time and time again, in every profession, that self-regulation doesn’t work. You simply need an external body to have effective oversight.

      You seem to be worried about how much an inspection costs, and how much the Chief Inspector is paid. However if an inspection was really cheap, and the head of the Regulator was paid peanuts, then we’d simply have endless criticism about how such an important job wasn’t being valued highly enough.

      I’m not a teacher, I’m a parent. What seems to be constantly overlooked/ignored on these pages is that parents like having an independent analysis of how a school is doing. That’s not to say anyone thinks Ofsted is perfect and unable to improve. We’re not naive enough to think every inspection is going to be perfect, and that every inspector’s comment is gospel, however it’s better than relying on the schools to grade themselves …

      • Richard House

        Re Mark’s comment: “I have made the comment before, on other pages, that every single profession dislikes/despises/discounts their regulator”. This is essentially a straw man, scatter-gun point that obscures far more than it reveals. It’s a purely empirical question as to whether a regulator’s judgements are fair or not. And the whole Ofsted approach, and the mentality it represents, urgently needs deconstructing, as there currently exists no independent, trustworthy mechanism for ascertaining whether Ofsted’s narrow proceduralist judgements are fair or not. And more crucially still – do we have an Ofsted regulating Ofsted?… – of course we don’t! (what a surprise…) – and with the current political regime in charge, there’s absolutely no chance of that happening! Both the regulator and the accountability system itself are in effect totally unregulated and out of control – and that’s completely unacceptable in a democratic society… – which is why Labour would have rightly abolished and replaced Ofsted, had they won the last general election.
        Re “I presume we can all agree that there are some schools which aren’t doing a good job for their children.” Well let’s pick the bones out of that one. First, any and every school can always improve – and schools WANT to do that: every teacher I know is totally committed to doing the best they possibly can for the children they teach. But schools as institutions are hugely complicated – organisationally, psychodynamically, socially… – and every school is also unique, in a unique geographical and class / cultural context. So the metrics-based, one-size fits-all template that Ofsted-DfE are determined to impose on all schools, irrespective of context, local difference and diversity, is not only non-sensical, but it routinely does a kind of violence to schools – which schools then experience as a deep level. When schools routinely don’t accept the damning judgements that Ofsted makes, IMV it’s because they understand and perceive only too well the disembodied, context-less proceduralism underpinning this organisation – and that it’s not remotely in the position of wisdom it would need to inhabit in order for the sweeping judgements it makes to have any kind of legitimacy.
        I also don’t agree about self-regulation. The evidence is actually that when organisations are trusted in a supportive, high-trust and respectful atmosphere to self- or peer-evaluate, they’re often far MORE self-critical than they need to be! All this is about the respective impact of a high-trust versus a low-trust milieu. Ofsted has always been a low-trust organisation that starts out from the assumption that schools and professionals aren’t to be trusted. And once such a low-trust ideology has become the norm, the consequences for everyone are catastrophic. If the political will were there – which it decidedly isn’t – it would be perfectly possible to create a highly effective high-trust Schools Review framework which empowered schools and teachers – and which engaged their enthusiasm for being open about their shortcomings and then addressing them. Just look at New Zealand to see how well such a system can work. But the Ofsted regime generates exactly the opposite effect – with schools and professionals being motivated to hide their weaknesses and obediently tick the metrics boxes. Does anyone seriously believe that this toxic, ultra-defensive process leads to high-quality schools and education?
        Re “parents like having an independent analysis of how a school is doing. …[having Ofsted is] better than relying on the schools to grade themselves …”. Independent analysis is fine – but it begs all the questions. What is at issue here isn’t whether schools should or shouldn’t be subject to independent analysis, but rather, it’s the nature of that scrutiny that is in question. And a false dichotomy is being presented here – as if the choice were necessarily between either Ofsted or school self-grading. There is a rich plethora of alternatives for review and accountability that avoid the dangers of self-evaluation, but which avoid the worst excesses of the Ofsted regime.
        And just to say also that it’s great having a parent posting on here, as there are far too few conversations between parents and educationalists. We cal all learn from one another – and need to.

  4. Felicity Leslie

    Mark Watson I don’t know if you are a teacher, in school or in OFSTED or have been in a school & judged by OFSTED?
    Unfortunately OFSTED has been criticised for many years over what it has done….or failed to do. One can realise some of this from having taught / been in schools but also from looking on Wikipedia & elsewhere.
    You may feel it is wrong to have spent money on fighting their corner but the school probably had some legitimate reasons for this and a lot of this would be in regards to the pupils.
    If you have seen all of the comments to date by OFSTED / previous OFSTED ‘ chiefs’ & some others you might think that all children have had no education from 23rd March to date. And that teachers are not willing to go back into schools etc.
    Do you or OFSTED know what it is like in schools during March to now? Teaching from home ?
    Regarding OFSTED most schools should have the opportunity to question an OFSTED report but there has been an ever growing realisation for many years that schools can question but often this is totally ignored.
    Have you looked at all of the complaints against OFSTED to date ?
    Do you know how much an OFSTED inspection actually costs?
    Do you know how much an OFSTED ‘chief ‘ is paid which comes from money, I guess for education? eg Sir Michael Wilshaw was paid
    £ 195, 000 – £ 199,000 pa.
    Plus all the others supposedly overseeing education & how many of them there are?
    Most Additional Inspectors were not linked to education and working with or teaching children.
    I do not know of this school but in over 23 years of teaching I saw the most bizarre reports & comments & judgements etc made from many OFSTED teams & schools just had to ‘ take it’. True or not.
    Also it is known that there is a desire by some to establish academies & to ‘ do away with ‘ other types of schools. I think one needs to be aware of what is behind not only a school doing something like this, the reasons behind it and also what exactly OFSTED are, comprised of & their reasons behind a lot of what they do.
    The amount of money/ waste of money that has been allocated to certain people in ‘ education’ & into constant writing & re – writing the curriculum & revising & re – revising it plus the cost of SATS etc & then abandoning them in some year groups & areas of the UK is a scandal and has deprived the children & schools of funding etc.
    Initially I thought that the National Curriculum would be great & that OFSTED would help to assess schools accurately & give help, support & advice to schools, as the advisors & some HMIs did prior to 1988. Sadly this is not what has happened & those with certain political or educational views have ‘ taken command’.
    Schools & education should be set up & be there for all children with their best interests at heart & an understanding of them etc and also
    ‘ feedback’ from them & teachers.
    And not with the serious criticisms of the UK education system & what the government have imposed on teachers & schools, from Andreas Schleicher & the PISA results, as recently as Dec 2019 & since 2009 / 2010 & the UN over children’s rights etc.
    I would suggest also reading the comments particularly by Dr Richard House on 18th May after Samantha Booth’s article on this school on 17th May.

  5. I suspect they didn’t want to be converted into an academy against the wishes of the school/local community. And a cynic might suggest that is exactly why Ofsted picked on this issue which is impossible really to prove or disprove to give them an inadequate rating.

    • Mark Watson

      I suspect they didn’t want to be told they were doing a bad job. And a cynic might suggest that the relevant individuals thought it was more important to spend scarce cash on protecting their reputations than on the children’s education.

      (BTW, “I suspect” and “a cynic might say” means I have no proof whatsoever for what comes after, and it should be treated as nothing other than an unsupported personal opinion which I freely and openly agree could be 100% wrong.)

  6. As a teacher, I want to be accountable. I also dearly wish to see OFSTED consigned to the scrapheap. A school where education standards are good is conveniently failed by this utterly self serving organisation, only good it seems at moving its own goalposts and inventing ever more absurd ways of perpetuating itself.
    I taught at a college where OFSTED came with the apparent objective of finding evidence of violence. What they found was a minor scuffle which they escalated to a major incident. They stopped a lesson conducted by a black female member of staff because they were horrified at her “homophobic” remarks. The student involved said they misheard what she had said. They still refused to withdraw their absurd and destructive judgement.
    For the sake of every child this organisation must be disbanded and something fit for purpose put in its place.

  7. Mike julian

    The local Authority has clearly dropped the ball here. Even as a large authority they cant have schools spending 100k on disputing OFSTED. They already know that changes in judgements or even significant alterations in text are virtually unheard of. The actions of the LA between inspection and conversion are crucial to the later success of the school. They needed to accept and quickly move to decisive action.

  8. As a SENCO I have had to battle with resource poor target driven head teachers to ensure Sen kids are supported appropriately. Maybe Ofsted was right in this juagemrnt but I have seen many schools pushed into the academy system and this smells strongly of that. I have experienced some fair inspections but more than half were just wrong on so many levels. An obsession with data, a disregard for staff wellbeing, insuffient time taken to explore the schools strengths and weaknesses leading to flawed and uninformed juagemrnts. The reality is that Ofsted is a highly political, not neutral, assessor. I have been a chair of governors and chose to engage with the Academy processs. But this should be a voluntary decision that stands on its own merits. Also, any monitoring body should have an independent arbitration policy.

  9. Therese Winthe

    Why does it sound like academy trust is a “dumping ground”? Are some academies any better? So if academy is rated inadequate, where will they go? Surely if rated inadequate and found to be as a result of poor management and governance, then change the teams.

    • Mark Watson

      Absolutely, some academy trusts are good and some are bad. If an academy is rated Inadequate the Regional Schools Commissioner has the ability to re-broker the school to another academy trust that will do a better job.

      As I see it the key point is that there are no absolutes – some Local Authorities and some academy trusts are wonderful at running schools, and some Local Authorities and some academy trusts are not so good. I don’t care what kind of organisation is running a school – if they’re doing a bad job, and can’t show how it will change moving forwards, they shouldn’t be allowed to continue failing the children.

  10. Dr Richard House

    Further response to thread 1:

    Thanks again for engaging – it’s great to have a forum for a conversation like this.
    Re “…I would suggest you can see that the two countries (NZ and England] are so different that saying you could pick up one small and distinct element – the School Review accountability process – and replicate it here expecting it to have the same results is simply not going to work”. This is mere assertion – you give no reasons as to why this “impossibility” (in your view) exists. The only difference that has any relevance here is the ideology driving the policy-makers, and the Weberian positional power wielded by institutions who have annexed power unto themselves over many years (aided and abetted by politicians far more concerned with disciplining professionals than in creating a co-learning milieu of mutual respect that is enabling of improved educational experiences for children). If the political and policy-making will were there, the inspection system could be completely transformed – as it’s simply about the kinds of inter-professional relationships created by and through the inspection and accountability process.
    Re “…you come at this from a political/philosophical angle which I understand as being… teachers know best and should be left to get on with it, and where they’re veering slightly off track they should be nurtured and gently encouraged to improve”. You seem determined to position me as someone who is saying “leave it to us, WE KNOW BEST”. I have never said this, and it’s certainly not me view. It’s far more subtle and complex than this – as these issues invariably are. In fact, one of the most pernicious aspects of the whole schooling system – including inspections and assessment – is the refusal to engage with complexity, contingency and the uniqueness of individual circumstances. Far easier and cheaper for the proceduralist Audit Culture to impose simplistic either/or binary metrics on to the whole system – and then, as Bourdieu showed, unavoidably commit a “symbolic violence” against it.
    Re the “Harold Shipman factor” (if I may call it that): first, I don’t see doctors and nurses as being particularly analogous to teachers. Teachers certainly don’t have everyday power over the mortal, life-or-death survival of their ‘clients’ in the same way that doctors do their ‘patients’. Short of living in a Stasi-like Police State, there’s no way one can ever guarantee that the very occasional highly disturbed ‘lone wolf’ determined to do harm will be stopped from doing so – that’s just part of the many unavoidable vicissitudes of a human society. So a proportionate balance needs to be struck between creating milieux of safety, and those which value human freedoms – and we will all have our views on where that line should be drawn – and on who should be conferred the positional power to draw it. I know that I emphatically don’t want schools to be doing the job of the resources-starved Social Services – heaven knows, the work of teaching is demanding enough. Back in 2017, a group of eminent educationalists had a meeting with Ofsted, urging them to remove safeguarding from the formal school grading system. Predictably, they refused. (And don’t even start me on the insultingly simplistic violence of the grading system…)
    Re “As senior, experienced professionals I would contend they shouldn’t need someone to ‘support’ them and encourage them to improve their behaviour, they should have known it was wrong and corrected it themselves”. I think this is hugely simplistic: we have no idea of the context and local contingencies – and we know that Ofsted certainly takes no account of contingency and complexity, and trying to understand what has happened – which of course should include listening carefully to the professionals involved – that is, having an inter-professional dialogue, not a punitive one-sided situation where “the accused” essentially have little if any come-back, and certainly no voice. “Big Ofsted knows best” is simply not good enough for an open, free democratic society in which professional voices need to be valued and heard – not just punished and condemned. Ultimately this about behaviourist education versus humanistic/existential/psychodynamic education – and I know which I’d want for my children and grandchildren.
    Re “My laboured point is that society as a whole wants inspection, and like it or not they seem to think Ofsted is doing well”. The kind of stats you quote on this tell us virtually nothing – and perhaps even less than nothing. As any decent methodologist will tell us, the context of the question being asked, the way in which it’s being asked, the amount of information available to those polled about possible alternatives…. – all these are crucial ingredients that will contribute to the answer one gets. Crude opinion polls really are less than helpful in understanding people’s views on these issues. If you ask someone a question that tacitly presupposes the answer, and which gives no information about viable alternatives, of course you’ll get such an answer. Thus, who, not knowing any details and about any possible alternatives, is going to say that they don’t want there to be an institution – any institution! – existing that claims to be improving their children’s education!?
    I’m sure readers have long since given up reading this, but thanks again for the opportunity and staying-power to have this important conversation.