Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Ofsted's competence

I have raised the issue of the competence of Ofsted's Board with my MP. Specifically, whether or not they need some experience of governance:

"As a school governor myself (Vice-Chair at the Leeds North West SILC) I am very aware of the importance of Ofsted’s inspections and pronouncements. As you say, the operational responsibility for these lies with the officers and inspectors who certainly, in my view, need some experience of the requirements and challenges of being a governor. After all as governors it is us, and nobody else, who is accountable for the strategic direction of schools and I believe that the current inspection regime underplays that strategic role, especially when a school is found to be in need of improvement or special measures. Having been in such a position I know how little effort the inspectors make to really engage with governors – to be blunt about it, if a manipulative and devious Head can pull the wool over the eyes of a whole governing body then they can certainly do so for one or two individuals visiting for two or there days and I have been in the position where as an Additional LEA Governor in a school in Special Measures the Inspectors were unable to talk to me despite my having a somewhat different perspective to the majority of the governing body that had go the school into SM.

On to the Board then; if the Board is to effectively set the strategic direction of Ofsted then my view is that the members need to have, between them, experience and understanding of the issues affecting the work of the organisation. If I were running a bank I would want to be sure that at least some of my Board had bank accounts (and so understood the practical implications of the system). Board members in a water company need to know something about water supply and effective Ministers need to know or learn about the topic for which they are responsible. How then can we justify a system in which the body responsible for the strategic direction of Ofsted need not have either experience or understanding of the role and challenges of the bodies responsible for strategic governance of schools? I am not saying that all members need such knowledge/experience, merely that some do"

He's passed the query on to Ed Balls - let's see what he has to say...

What do you think?

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