How do we Improve Schools?

512px-Stofa_i_hradbrautThis question isn’t as daft as it sounds. You probably think you know the answer. How about getting better teachers; making sure parents and carers are interested and involved; spending more money on books and equipment; or inspecting them and then telling them what to do? All of these are valid suggestions. Each of them has been shown to work. So why discuss this at all?

A good reason to start with is because there’s a bit of news going around that school inspections are going to change. Or develop, if you prefer. Is that so unusual, though? Most things change at some point or other, why should school inspection be any different?

Unfortunately (some might say obviously), it turns out there is no one way of helping schools improve. The latest idea is to get HMI ( Her Majesty’s Inspectors ) to check Ofsted’s work ( Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education ). So, will this monitoring of monitors improve schools inspection, and in turn help schools improve more effectively? The short answer is, probably, yes. The reason I say this is because it might bring two very different bodies together. And if they manage to work together, it really could be a winning team.

HMI have been around a long time. They have usually been known as a group of senior or otherwise experienced group of educationists. They used to report independently on schools or groups of schools to produce national judgements and opinions. Ofsted were created to provide public information about every school, a subtle but important difference.

HMI did work with other groups like local authority inspectors and advisers but on the whole their own unique opinion was valued and rarely challenged. Ofsted, meanwhile, have a huge workload and some might say punishing schedule. Some people also accuse them of weaknesses and inconsistencies. Hardly surprising in a way, considering what they’re asked to do.

So… if HMI combine their particular expertise with Ofsted’s reach and capacity, wouldn’t that make the best possible combination, a real ‘winning team’? Think of it as judges making sure that lawyers doing a lot of work are doing it well and properly.

If it does work, then it could work well. However, one last thought may be, if schools realise that inspections of their schools are going be assessed as valid, useful and important in a wider, national context, will they be pleased or not?

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My last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. Prior to that, I worked in schools, colleges, adult education and the Arts, including a period as a local authority inspector. I'm going to make myself busy trying to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested.

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