Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 14 Jan 2010

Our children’s flourishing primary school has been put in ‘special measures’. Do inspectors know how much damage this does?

Hillary's Advice

I’m sure that they do, at least up to a point, but I am equally sure that they would say that it isn’t their job to worry about the effects of their verdicts. It is only their job to call it like they see it. But the Ofsted inspection framework is undoubtedly harsh and arbitrary, based on check lists and tick boxes, and delivered in a way that – if the verdict is a bad one -- seems designed to do maximum harm.

Having said that, your school has been put in special measures mainly because the inspectors felt that teachers were not tracking pupils’ progress closely enough to help them make good progress, and this is a very serious failing. Parents are up in arms because they love their children’s school, know that it “adds value” to pupils’ learning, and fear that all the painstaking work of the previous head to rehabilitate this once-failing school into the local community will now been undone.

But, while it obviously a real blow to have this negative judgment to deal with, the inspectors’ finding does need to be addressed urgently. Accept the judgment with the best grace you can muster, along with the extra help and support it will channel into the school, and at the same time mobilise parents to support teachers, and talk up all the good things about the school in the press, and in the local community.

Nothing ultimately matters more to a school’s local reputation than happy, successful children and its reputation on the parental grapevine.