Word of the day: OFSTED

Following on from our recent post about heavy workloads, where we revealed how much UK teachers work, today we’re looking at OFSTED. OFSTED in an organisation that inspects schools in England and checks that they’re doing a good job. OFSTED stands for the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. It’s often blamed for the increase in teachers’ workload because a large part of what it inspects is paperwork. The week that it actually inspects a school and the lead-up to the inspection is a period of intense activity and stress and people often talk about it using OFSTED as a passive verb–  as in ‘We’re being ofsteded at the moment’ or ‘we’ve just been been ofsteded recently’, the meaning of which covers both the inspection process and the pain that it causes!

The result of the inspection is an OFSTED report, which rates a school as inadequate, satisfactory, good or outstanding – and parents have open access to these reports when they make choices about which school to send their children to. It also means that from time to time, you’ll see signs outside a school advertising that they’re good or outstanding. Remember that these are state schools and are free!

Schools which fail an OFSTED inspection (by getting graded as satisfactory or inadequate) are put on special measures. This may involve putting in place a new head teacher or new staff, or reorganising the school in other ways, with the help of educational consultants or members of other ‘outstanding’ schools.

Although OFSTED is officially ‘independent’ from the government, there’s a lot of political argument about it. Obviously, in inspecting a school and giving it a rating, OFSTED has to decide what makes a good school and good teaching and what’s bad. Often, this view clashes with what politicians say and think as was recently seen in the government’s decision to increase the number of grammar schools (schools which select students through an entrance exam). OFSTED also clashes with teachers’ unions or others involved in teacher training and development, because these people say OFSTED creates too much paperwork and encourages a tick-box approach to teaching (in other words, inspectors tick things they see on their list of ’good things’ and ignore other good/better approaches). In short, no-one really likes OFSTED or to be ofsteded!

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  • Do you have any body like OFSTED in your country?
  • How do parents choose the school their children go to?
  • How do you know what’s a good or bad school?
  • What makes a good school or teacher?
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