A welcome shift: as students get their GCSE results this week, Rescue Our Schools ruminates on Ofsted’s apparent change of heart

It’s not often that Ofsted gets the thumbs up from Rescue Our Schools. But credit where credit is due. If the guardians of “high standards” really are going to place less stress on exam results — as the newspapers have reported – then this can only be a good thing.
It has been blindingly obvious for years that if you make high stakes results a crucial factor in inspections – with the risk of league table demotion, academisation and management clear-outs if the results are deemed not good enough – then schools will prioritise scores and grades above everything else.
And although progress measures are now meant to play a key role in inspections, anyone who has experienced a visit from the inspectors will know that it is still extremely unpredictable to what extent the team will give those measures the weight they allegedly deserve.
So let’s hold our breath and hope that when the new framework comes out we see a substantial change in judgements  on the ground.
But let’s hope for much more than that. Firstly, many of the schools that have indulged in the worst excesses of drilling are in the “outstanding”  category. For them to get a more intelligent judgement Ofsted will have to make sure it visits these schools sooner rather than later.
Secondly, let’s hope that schools get the funding they so desperately need to enable them to reopen the moth-balled art departments and bring back the drama teachers. There is no sign of that so far from Mr Hinds.
Finally let’s hope that if Amanda Spielman,the Ofsted chief inspector, wants to ensure everyone gets a “quality education”, we can kickstart a debate among politicians (and Ofsted) about what that really looks like.
It is not enough to argue that stopping schools spending three years prepping for GCSEs will solve the problem. We need to demand – as parents, teachers and students – the freedom to develop approaches that deliver the skills young people need. They need both rich knowledge and rich experiences of education , that encourage critical thinking, problem solving and team work. And they need to develop those skills without obsessive “flight path” targets and punitive inspections which simply make matters worse.
Teaching unions have been asking for a deeper kind of education until they are blue in the face. The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) repeated the call only a few months ago. But it seems that change will only happen if parents – a.k.a millions of voters – make it clear that the current, improved offer that Ofsted is apparently demanding is still not good enough.
If you agree with all this, please talk to friends and family and get them on board with Rescue Our Schools!

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