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PERSONAL, UNDILUTED VIEWS FROM TOM WINNIFRITH

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Ofsted – Not Satisfactory

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- Tom Winnifrith

When I was at prep school the grades ( with + or minus signs afterwards) started with E for Excellent and with no E stars because the tests were tough enough that very few achieved an E and there was thus no difference to differentiate between the elite because they were just that. Then there was G (Good), S (Satisfactory) and finally NS (Not satisfactory). If you scored an S you knew that you were not going to win any prizes, that you could do better but that you were in no immediate danger of being demoted (we did have streams at my school).

I see that in assessing schools, the watchdog Ofsted employs a similar system. And that 6,000 schools have been assessed in their most recent appraisal as S for Satisfactory. Except that Ofsted now says that Satisfactory actually means not satisfactory and S will be replaced by a new grade “Requires Improvement.” If you get an RI assessment three times on the trot you will face “special measures.” That sounds rather ominous.

George Orwell would be proud of all of this NewSpeak. Essentially what we are being told is that was deemed until the other day “satisfactory” was in fact “not satisfactory”. Forget an RI grade let’s just be honest and grade these schools NS. I am not sure what the Ofsted grade below the old S/new RI is? Was it Not Satisfactory which Ofsted will now rename in NewSpeak RALOI (Requires a lot of Improvement”)? Should it perhaps be “Utterly crap” – UC or “ICCSHBR” Inner City Comprehensive Sink Hole beyond Redemption?

Education today seems all about grade inflation (exam results until this year) and now school ratings deflation. There is a whole industry devoted to assessing how good schools are and to helping schools bolster their Ofsted ratings whether that actually improves the end game for students is another matter. If you have a kid in your primary school who has vague psychopathic tendencies and beats up all his classmates, you or I might think it would benefit all to exclude him for a while at least. But that means lower attendance rates/terms completed which counts against you in an Ofsted rating. And so the little monster will invariably be allowed to stay.

And so it is another day, another Ofsted initiative. It is all part of the brave new world of non-dithering Britain. But will it actually make our kids more able to read, write, do maths or have a vague knowledge of History (other than the rise of Adolf Hitler)? After not much dithering, I conclude not.

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