Ofsted is to take steps to “publicly acknowledge” the work of entire school management teams, to address a tendency to pin successes and failures on headteachers alone, Amanda Spielman has said.
The chief inspector of schools told the Ark Schools Teach 2017 conference in Birmingham today that she was “all too aware” of a tendency to overlook the roles of whole management teams and “attribute everything to a leader”.
She said the work of other senior and middle leaders, such as deputy heads, heads of department and school business managers, should get more recognition.
While Ofsted’s inspection process has always looked at management and not just at leadership, our public pronouncements probably haven’t
The changes proposed will not affect the inspection process, which already looks at the management of schools as well as leadership, but rather the way Ofsted talks about schools in broader terms, through its communications with schools and the wider public.
“I think I can see that, while Ofsted’s inspection process has always looked at management and not just at leadership, our public pronouncements probably haven’t,” said Spielman. “But I’m changing that, and making sure we publicly acknowledge whole management teams, not just leaders.”
This would mean recognising excellent management policies, but also “pointing out when we see some irresponsible ones as well”, she said, adding that schools are transformed “when teams work together and make good use of everyone’s time”.
For example, behaviour policies, when set centrally, can “reduce pressure on teachers” and allow for more time in the classroom.
“That’s about management, it’s not something about a single leader.”
Spielman said the work of management teams was often overlooked because of a undue focus on schools’ overall Ofsted grading, rather than the four sub-categories used by inspectors, of which leadership and management is one.
She highlighted examples of schools which were rated as ‘requires improvement’ overall, but had had ‘good’ leadership and management, and said this should be recognised.
Spielman admitted her organisation had “probably been too focused” on these overall inspection ratings, especially in its public reporting and communications activities. This tendency to overlook schools’ leadership and management judgments could be a barrier to keeping good leaders in the system, she warned.
Ofsted recognises that leaders in the toughest schools face the greatest challenges, Spielman said, adding that nothing should deter “the best leaders” from working in schools in the most deprived areas.
But she pushed back against the idea that those schools should receive special treatment.
“Some people would like us simply to lower the expectations of those schools in overall judgments. That’s just not something that I can countenance.
“At best, it would mean that our judgments didn’t reflect the quality of education that young people are actually receiving, and at its worst, it would legitimise setting lower expectations for disadvantaged children simply by reason of their being disadvantaged, and I can’t imagine anybody wants that.”
Instead, Ofsted should talk more about the performance of schools in the four sub-categories used by inspectors, such as leadership and management.
“I really want to do as much as we can and to make it clear that no head or manager or teacher should suffer as a result of working in a challenging school.”