Must Do Better

28 November, 2011 (11:38) | All articles | By: Stuart Fraser

Too many schools are coasting, says Ofsted. Too many schools have had two ‘satisfactory’ grades in a row, showing they’re not bothering to improve, the lazy good-for-nothings.

Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, inspects our schools and grades them.

It gives schools a few days’ notice that a team is to arrive, plunging into unimaginable stress the already overworked staff. Their reputations, careers, perhaps their relationships as a team, perhaps their relationships with parents and children, are to be placed under a microscope. Strangers who know little of them, their pupils or their environment will observe their every move. Their reputations, careers, perhaps their relationships as a team, perhaps their relationships with parents and children, may be damaged by the verdict. Certainly their home and family relationships will be tested once more by a profession which already causes immense difficulty, demanding as it does working hours far beyond the professional norm.

And this will take place over just two or three days.

In just two or three days inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education will reach far-reaching conclusions about your professional ability and the reputation of your school. They will use evidence amassed over a long period of time, certainly, and they will examine statistics, yes, but their judgements on your teaching, for example, will take place over perhaps one, maybe two lessons in one two-day period jammed with a lethal density of stress and upset.

For this, the cheapest inspectors will be paid £582. Per day.

To discover that fact, by the way, I had to make a request of Ofsted using the Freedom of Information Act. We can readily see why the Government might prefer such a fact not to be easily accessible.

£582. Per day.

How many books do you think you could buy for £582? Per day?

Anyway, this is the body that now passes judgement once more on schools in their entirety. Not enough improvement. Not working hard enough. ‘Coasting’.

How typical of the sick attitude that says achievement is never enough: we must achieve more! Doing well just won’t do. We must do better. £1 million in profit is not enough! Sack a few people and we could make £2 million! The England cricket team won the Ashes in Australia comprehensively: it wasn’t enough. They didn’t want to celebrate, they wanted to get even better.

Let us not forget that Ofsted, so critical of coasting schools, lazy schools, schools happy just to be providing a satisfactory education for our young people, is part of the education machine that annually defends a massive improvement in O and A Level results by crediting the education system. You know, the one that’s coasting and not improving.

Let us not forget that Ofsted, demanding better, demanding more, is part of the education machine that has enabled the creation of free schools and academies, which can employ as many unqualified, unregulated teachers as they like to ‘teach’ pupils. Now that’s raising standards!

This judgemental, demanding, table-thumping, greedy stance is directed in the bottom line at our children, of course. Little people trying to learn that life can be worth living, can be fun, can be rewarding, being harangued by grim-faced men and women suits howling: “That’s not good enough! Do more! Do better! Now! Quickly!”

Having been through Ofsted inspections and the resulting reports from various sides – journalist, partner of teacher, parent, school governor – I remain absolutely and utterly convinced that the Office for Standards in Education is an absurdly expensive and utterly unjustified waste of time, effort, money and commitment. It should be abolished immediately. Schools have governing bodies. They are there to observe, to judge, to test, to criticise, to help. Let the Government put a hundredth of the Ofsted budget into supporting Governors to do their jobs. Then let the Government re-employ Ofsted’s staff as school teachers. That’ll teach them. Oh, but not at £582 a day.

We can see exactly how much education means to the Government that continues to fund Ofsted in two more announcements this week.

Tomorrow, George Osborne, known to the wider world as George Surely For The Love of God This Can’t Be Your Chancellor? Osborne, is expected to find £600 million from somewhere in his austerity-stricken budget to enable the creation of more free schools. That’s schools liberated from the yoke of employing qualified staff and treating them according to nationally agreed fair employment rules and being accountable to their local communities. They’ll get £600 million to make the select few better at maths. Quite a lot of money, isn’t it? Would go quite a long way if shared out fairly, wouldn’t it?

But no. After 2,000 years of evolution it still hasn’t dawned on George Osborne – and why should it? He’s a drooling idiot – that selecting the chosen few and showering money on them is what has got the economy into the position he keeps insisting he has to extract us from by making our lives a misery.

Even that isn’t working, of course. Osborne blames the Eurozone crisis. But Trades Union Congress figures show exports are higher than expected – the main reason for our stagnant economy is a lack of domestic demand. Net trade will contribute 1.3% to growth in 2011, says the TUC, while domestic demand will fall another 0.6%. Perhaps because everybody’s broke and in fear of their livelihoods? Eh?

Anyway, Mr Osborne and his public school ‘educated’ ilk will continue to believe that their definition of ‘freedom’ will deliver better education.

Free schools and academies are not, by the way, just about schools liberated from the yoke of employing qualified staff and treating them according to nationally agreed fair employment rules and being accountable to their local communities and teaching a nationally agreed curriculum to nationally agreed standards.

According to the second education policy revelation this week, such schools, not answerable to national or locally agreed strategies, don’t even have to observe the nutritional policies agreed in the wake of Jamie Oliver’s campaign for more healthy food in schools.

You can readily understand why, can’t you? They can charge the entrepeneurs so beloved of Mr Osborne and his pals to stick junk food vending machines in school corridors and bank some of the money pupils pay; they can shave a few quid off school dinners budgets. Let them eat turkey twizzlers.

Hang on a minute. Must take a breath. There.

It drives me to utter distraction that we allow our public life to be run by this morally bankrupt elite, and it makes me even angrier than that when money, and the desperate lust for it, are allowed to drive the way we treat our children.

Final whistle

I’ve been greatly enjoying the fuss about the England rugby team. Professional rugby players think about money! Imagine! Rugby players behave badly and drink a lot! The surprise!

Look, they lost at rugby. They weren’t good enough. Live with it.

Oh, and sack Rob Andrew.

Gardener’s Tourette’s

An apology: in writing last week’s moving epistle about the above disease I entirely forgot to credit the Sister Sues, whose description of Pensioner’s Tourette’s was its inspiration.

You may remember it from some time ago – the way some elderly folk are unable to stop themselves saying the sort of thing social nicety would once have left unsaid. You know – “don’t you know how to make a cup of tea, then” or “that colour you’ve chosen for the bathroom looks really horrible”. That, and the involuntary farting, of course. Mind you, I started that when I was 38.

Some sufferers from this Tourette’s of the elderly, bewildered and confused even start posting comments on websites.

Some, who suffer from early onset versions, start writing blogs.

By the way, Captain Kay, a good friend of the blog, had a useful piece of painfully acquired advice for those of you of a senior disposition. Or who intend to acquire a senior disposition one day.

After luxuriating in his fragrant bath the other day, the good Captain, who is much stricken in years, found he was unable to extract his aged and now even more wrinkled than normal frame from the cooling waters.

He pondered a while, then turned on the hot tap and allowed himself to be floated to the lip of the bath, from which he was able to twitch himself out, collapsing in a heap onto the floor where he lay looking like a large deflated scrotum.

He’s having a walk-in shower installed now.


Comment from ROGER
Time November 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Not satisfactory,drifting not even coasting and governors know even less about education than inspectors.

Comment from Iain
Time November 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Free Schools!!?? Sounds like back door privatisation to me..are our schools heading the same way as British Gas, British Telecom and British Rail?? Will we have to tell Sid, wait for days on the end of a phone for school reconnection or pay three times as much for a free school system that runs later every day than when it wasn’t free??? Vive la revolution I say!!!!!!!

Comment from sue appleby
Time November 29, 2011 at 10:28 am

If parents were more involved and spoke to Governors about their concerns problems could be resolved and standards improved between them, without outside interference from agencies such as Ofsted.
When my children were young attending a village school in Somerset the parents got together and requested that the children were taught Times Tables (very unfashionable) and the reading method that we learnt as kids not the method where children are surrounded by books and expected to learn by osmosis !
After consultations with the Governors and Teachers these methods were put in place and the children thrived.
More interest from parents please, they are your kids and our future.

Comment from stentsRUS
Time November 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Well done Stuart! thoroughly researched, right to the point, 100% agreement,
sack Rob Andrew,replace Ofsted with Ofstrug, and solve the Rugby World Cup
Tourettes problem all in one go…*****ing fantastic!

Comment from Hamster
Time November 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I attended Rilla Mill Pre-School, Upton Cross Primary & Callington Community College as did my father before me (he may not have done rilla mill bit), it did us just fine and my kids are following the same path and I’m proud to say that they are doing their best, the kids and the teachers! Said education afforded me to watch two of those Ashes test matches in Oz, and I celebrated that English innings victory at the Adelaide Oval in the downpour that came like a rugby player! At a cost of £500 a day for each day of cricket when I could have watched it at home for a £500 a year Sky subscription it was money well spent………..Hang on a minute now I have done the maths……..”honey, where did you put that number of that private tutor……..”

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