I’ve been a school governor for a number of years, with admittedly varying degrees of involvement. Often it is a case of simply not being able to be in two places at the same time. This might be an excuse for just not being committed enough, as some would see it. They could be right, but I don’t think I’m the only school governor to be beset by other commitments. All governors are volunteers as far as I know, so you will always have diversity in membership. As far as I’m concerned, this is a good thing.
However, excuses out of the way, that’s not how the government view it nor their henchmen at OFSTED. They do not expect but demand as far as I can see, professionalism and will accept no other level of service. I saw a report recently where Michael Gove accused governors of being ‘local worthies.’ I don’t doubt for a minute there is some of that but what a broad stupid brush. The problem as far as I can see has always been getting someone to do the job. Gove’s ‘secret’ plan will come to pass though. Governors will quit (where they are not sacked) which is what he wants and be replaced by all these wonderful volunteers who have been waiting in the wings for years for the ‘worthies’ to move aside. Another triumph for the government’s ‘big society!’
What leads me to this conclusion? Simple answer: the new inspection regime. I can hear teachers shouting ‘what’s new mate?’ It’s always been like that. Overbearing inspectors breathing down their necks seeking out the slightest imperfection and going in for the kill at the expense of the poor teacher who by now has had their confidence shattered and their career ruined. The truth is it wasn’t like that I don’t believe. It was tough and it was I believe hard on failure.
The inspection regime previously focused on a range of indicators, it also took account of the schools ability to perform under tough conditions. Teachers were rewarded for getting the best out of disadvantaged kids who had tough starts in life with no immediate prospect of life at home getting better any time soon. This considered the children and indeed the whole school community beyond the class room and school gates. Not excuses but realism and pragmatism.
Now, results are all they appear to focus on. Floor targets, which if failed to be reached by the school will deem the school to be in disgrace. This takes no account of the value and progress made by children who often start with no English and a family with no understanding or recognition of education. In many schools, turnover of pupils puts huge pressure on year groups and skew results. Progress is then condemned because it’s not good enough. This is the stance now executed by OFSTED.
I’ve met OFSTED inspectors in the past whilst carrying out their duties and they have always been polite, engaged, understanding and challenging. They have listened and been listened to. They have been robust and can see a ruse or trick a mile off. The new regime now has commercial targets as their incentive. They will meet their goal by filling in the correct boxes and picking up a tidy sum of loot for all their ‘good’ work. Be in no doubt; Inspectors working for their private company have an incentive to achieve their goals – and they will.
That is the reality of school inspections today. The children come first? I don’t believe so. Dogma and form filling on a whole new scale driven by profit and a desire to fail as many schools as they can in an attempt to drive up standards.
And their silver bullet? They change the name of the school.