Ofsted- A Cause for Concern?

In considering the impact of Ofsted’s inspection policy, schools, and their teachers, are forced into compliance with the criteria of its regime. As Courtney (2012:2) asserts “Ofsted privileges its corporate conceptualisation of educational processes and enforces compliance with it through a culture of performativity within a managerialist discourse which it structures through its inspection regime.” This firmly places the power of educational governance with Ofsted, whilst schools, and their leaders, are placed under the illusion that they govern their own educational provision. Furthermore, schools are increasingly becoming panoptic in that they are under constant surveillance from a privileged few rather than being surveyed by those who they serve.

Foucault (1975:201) stated that the “perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary” so that “the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action.” What this means for schools is that the threat of inspection has permanent effects on the performance of the school even though an inspection team may not be present. Ultimately this controls the behaviours of the school, its leadership and teachers, and could be considered as a way of a dominant elite controlling the nature of the country’s schools, rather than the nature of the country’s schools controlling the behaviour of the country. Ironically, Ofsted (:59) claim that “teaching across the school” should “prepare pupils effectively for the next stage in their education.” What this means in reality is that learners are compliant to the dominant narrative of not questioning the culture in which they live.

Based upon my experience of policies, institutions, teaching and learning I believe that the UK’s educational system and the learning within it is becoming disconnected from its purpose. Authentic education is displaced by the performance of education, which is gaining greater legitimization through the dominant narrative supported by a powerful elite. What is needed is a clarity of purpose; a liberating revolution. This revolution should seek to have authentic education, and thus learning, as its central tenet. School organisations should collaborate and enter into a dialogic relationship to maintain and perpetuate the revolution and they should shape the future of the country and its people rather than the future of education being shaped by those who run the country.

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