Ofsted should be supportive and positive not punitive and negative

Transcript extracts from items on BBC East Midlands Today (TV) and BBC Radio Derby about Ofsted and ‘stuck schools’, including interviews with Voice General Secretary Deborah Lawson, 8 January 2020.

By Richard Fraser, Editor

BBC East Midlands Today:

Presenters Anne Davies and Dominic Heale. Reporter Simon Ward

‘An education union has told us that Ofsted should be positive rather than punitive and negative.’…..

‘The Derby-based Voice education union represents teachers and a wide range of education professionals.'

Deborah Lawson:

“Inspections need to be positive. There is no point in being punitive.

“You need to be supportive, not punitive.

“That is the way you are going to bring schools on board and to help them.”

‘The union says schools should be able to decide about making changes for the better.'

Deborah Lawson:

“Only they know what works in their schools, with their cohorts of children, for their communities.

“So, teachers, school leaders, schools, need to be given that power, that freedom.”

‘The Voice union believes there will eventually be a fundamental change to the way schools are inspected.’

BBC Radio Derby:

Presenter Steve Jordan

[Reaction to report. Surprised?]

Deborah Lawson:

“Yes and no. There have always been a number of schools that have persistently been in special measures or requiring improvement, and I think we have to look at how the inspection regime itself and the whole accountability regime has actually contributed to that and not helped schools to move on.”

[On reputation of Derby schools]

Deborah Lawson:

“In general terms, there are schools all over the country that will have persistent problems, and I think the report is very clear in that it is saying there are societal problems in these areas and that is a contributory factor to this.”

[Teaching performance or ability of pupils?]

Deborah Lawson:

“I think nobody goes into teaching or into the education field unless they want to make a difference. “Our members are no different to anybody else in education. They want their pupils to succeed and achieve, and they want them to have access to the best possible education. There is no difference there.

“But the accountability regime itself has created a culture where, actually, you have to deliver what Ofsted is asking rather than be brave and say, ‘no, we need to be doing what our pupils need’, and there is no point in saying ‘this works in this school so it’s going to work in your school’, because the teachers and the leaders in the schools are the ones who know their communities, they know the cohorts of pupils that they are delivering to and providing education to, and they are the ones that need the freedom to be innovative and develop programmes that are needed.”

[Why haven’t problems been sorted out sooner?]

Deborah Lawson:

“As I have already said, and as the report points out, there are societal problems, and it isn’t just about education.

“One of the issues is that so much pressure is being put on schools that ‘you can solve this’. Well, they can’t solve it on their own, and it’s not that schools and teachers and headteachers don’t want to do this; they do. They want to play their part, but there are other agencies who, as schools have done, as education has suffered, have suffered through austerity measures, and what has happened as the amount of funding has declined, the level at which help is available has increased, so actually there’s a gap there and that may be a factor.”

[What could help?]

Deborah Lawson:

“Again, as pointed out in the report, there has been a plethora of support and advice available for schools and actually being able to work your way through that particular minefield can also be difficult.

“So I agree there needs to be consistent, positive support and it needs to be co-ordinated. Getting it from various different places with no co-ordination and being pulled in a dozen different ways is not going to be helpful to that school or to those children.

“The schools also need the capacity to be able to change, and the acceptance that change doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time.

“But I think, most importantly, is that, through the accountability regime, schools have been disenfranchised. They’ve been robbed of the freedom to innovate, to implement and make the changes they need to, because they’ve been driven by the process, and we need to give that power and that freedom back to them.”


Deborah Lawson comments on TES article "Ofsted made 3Rs success a stick to beat us"






Further information


Raising expectations of children and parents, high standards for teachers and tackling bad behaviour: how schools in ‘left behind’ areas can improve (press release, 8 January 2020)

Fight or flight? How 'stuck' schools are overcoming isolation (research and analysis, 8 January 2020)

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