Two events took place over the weekend that confirmed what I had feared for a long time with regard to the current educational world in England – one was Michael Gove being interviewed at the annual meeting of head teachers and the other was a conversation I had with a former colleague who continues to work at a school where I had previously taught.
In England, schools are regularly inspected by a body called Ofsted or to give it its full name, the Office for Standards in Education. As you will appreciate, Ofsted inspections can be pretty traumatic for many teachers – and not just the poor or average ones. Many teachers who lack confidence find an Ofsted inspection to be an exceedingly nerve-wracking and potentially disheartening time. In recent years, Ofsted inspectors swoop on a school with only a few days notice and make pronouncements upon individual teacher performance as well as overall assessment of the success or otherwise of the school. Currently Ofsted is focusing on how well schools and teachers achieve targets with severe criticism being levelled at those who do not. In this climate, head teachers took the opportunity to raise their concerns with the Education Minister. This is what he said, as a response – “If Ofsted is a cause of fear then I’m grateful for your candour, but I’m afraid we are going have to part company.”
My discussions with my former colleague focused on how things were going at my old school. What became clear, from her comments was that the current head sees his role as being to impose his own model for teaching upon all staff. A number of times she told me that the head frequently says at staff meetings – “You do it this way, or there’s the door.”
As I reflected on these two events, it was brought home to me afresh just how obsessed with a ‘one size fits all’ approach, educational decision-makes have become. Children differ – even a family with two children is able to see this. Any yet this simple fact is lost on our educational decision-makers who seem to fixate on moulding all children into the same shape. This has to be bad – both for children and for the vitality and health of future society. The sooner Michael Gove and Ofsted wake up to this fact, the sooner we will have a humane education system in England that encourages children to blossom by developing the gifts that their Creator has provided them with!