OFSTED; Impartial Inspector or Gove’s Poodle?Posted: February 23, 2012
Margaret Morris writes:
The case ofDownhills Primary School in Haringey is a clear example of the invidious and negative role Ofsted is playing in the development of English education. Gove’s aim is to convert as many schools as possible, primary as well as secondary, into Academies run by private educational chains in place of elected School Governors with the guidance and help of Local Authorities.
In order to force schools to comply, he is relying on Ofsted Reports and SATs results to show that a school needs to improve. He picked on the London Borough of Haringey to begin his campaign and chose 4 primary schools to be forced into academy status, of which Downhills was one.
The Governors, staff and parents, together with the local MP David Lammy, said they had confidence in the school, which was a happy and improving school providing a good environment for its pupils, many of whom came from deprived backgrounds. A mass rally was held which can be seen on You Tube.
This provoked Gove immediately to send in a team of Ofsted Inspectors. Two years earlier, an Ofsted Report had said the school needed to improve and it had done so by the standard measure favoured by the Government of SATS results: against the national minimum target of 60% of pupils reaching the required standard, in 2011 the School achieved a score of 61%. No matter, in the inspectors went. Despite Ofsted’s alleged impartiality, they reported that Downhills was a failing school and must be put into Special Measures. Nothing could have been more helpful to Gove.
The situation today is that the School Governors are still resisting being forced to abdicate and agree to the School being transferred to Academy status, but see it as a last ditch battle. They argue correctly that there is no evidence that existing Academies are more successful in raising standards than community schools – recent figures show the contrary with 50 existing Academies among the 200 lowest-scoring schools and 27% having poorer results in 2011 than 2010.
Haringey in contrast has helped its local schools achieve significant improvements over the last year and is one of the most improved Boroughs in the country. Downhills’ staff want to go on working in partnership with Haringey but may not be allowed to do so, even if cuts in Haringey’s budget and loss of income from transfers by its schools to Academy status leave the Borough sufficient resources to carry out its role in helping schools raise standards. Great damage has been done to the school’s morale and the Head has resigned. It seems only too likely that the disruption caused by Gove and his ally Ofsted will set the school back at a time when it was going successfully forward.