Imagine an undercover OFSTED inspector!

Imagine an inspection system where we had an ‘undercover inspector’.  The inspector would come to your school disguised as a member of staff.  Would she or he disguise themself as the boss, a senior leader, a teacher, a teaching assistant or a site supervisor?  How would they judge the school?  What would they say about your lesson?  Is there a particular time in the academic year that you would prefer them to come?  One thing is for sure, this is every teacher’s worst nightmare, a catalyst for making you want to leave the profession.

Channel 4’s ‘Undercover Boss’ series facilitated undercover inspections of many well known national businesses.  The Boss would take on a junior role, undercover, so they could get a true reflection of the business.  Best Western Hotels was my favourite episode (can be viewed on channel 4 player http://www.channel4.com/programmes/undercover-boss/on-demand/48666-001). My favourite part was when the boss watched the preparation of a hotel inspection.  Staff were seen moving the best furniture into the cleanest rooms; these rooms were the rooms that would be inspected.  The Boss was horrified at what he witnessed.

Undercover Boss

The show highlights the fact that we all clean, polish and present ourselves at our best before any inspection.  This is not only a matter of professional pride but also the fear and consequences of failure.  But we ask ourselves, was the inspection really neccessay?  When they go ‘back to normal’,  will anything or anybody be worse off?

So, what was the fate of the employees who deceived the inspectors?  It was brilliant to see that the vast majority of bosses accepted responsibility for the problems in the business before ‘pointing the finger’ at their employees.  By being undercover, the boss got a true insight into the reasons behind the employees actions.  Many of the businesses were underfunded, understaffed, had insufficient training and lacked the infrastructure to operate in a functional way.  The undercover bosses praised many of the staff who did their best under difficult circumstances; many of these people were promoted or invited to head office to help develop solutions for the business.

The bosses of these companies were leaders of Biritsh business success stories.  They were leaders with empathetic skills and they had a duty of care for their employees.  They were proactive in their response to the problems in the business, working with employees to find solutions collaboratively rather than blaming staff and starting disciplinary procedures.

So would having undercover inspectors really be a bad thing?  Maybe our education ministers should spend some quality time in schools with us so that they fully understand the workload, pressure and challenges that teachers and schools face on a daily basis. @TeamTait said:

“How many schools will be quoting the ‘Nicky Morgan 5pm Curfew’ when they get hammered by Ofsted on their marking & feedback?”.

Nicky Morgan’s comments on teachers’ workload demonstrates a complete lack of empathy and understanding.

Undercover Inspector

So let’s invite the undercover inspectors.  Let them witness the planning, assessment, creativity, behaviour management, the sacrifice of break and lunch, extra-curricular activities, late evenings working … the list goes on.  All this done with limited time and financial funding!  They might think twice before inspecting schools  in the last week of the academic year or the week before we break up for Christmas as they would understand that at these points in the academic calendar we have fun with the children as well as celebrate the achievements of the term (OFSTED don’t seem to accept that this happens).  At this point we might get the support, praise and recognition that we deserve as a profession.  I also believe that ‘outstanding’ would be a more frequently used word.

Keep up the outstanding work! We can only dream of a better inspection system.

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