Alex Quigley’s (@HuntingEnglish) recent post “The Ofsted Matthew Effect” got me thinking. His premise is fairly uncontroversial, I think: that ‘poor’ intakes result in poor student performance, which results in Required Improvement from Ofsted, which makes things much, much worse (because of the short-termism required to attempt to address Ofsted concerns). And eventually this leads to academisation. He makes the additional point that being under the Ofsted improvement cosh doesn’t encourage staff retention or help staff recruitment, either.
A teacher working in such a school is unlikely to be seen as being as effective as they would doing exactly the same in a school not under such pressures. So, teachers (and possibly Head Teachers) find themselves plunged into a downward spiral of pain because the intake is poor (something that they have no control over). So, how have we got here?
I think we may be here because Government (and Society) doesn’t accept the inevitability of the Matthew Effect when applied to Opportunity. This is clearly wider than just education, having a strong element of social justice. But there is also a wide spread view that education can be used to bring about long term changes in society, and is more directly under Government’s control. Education is an area where Government can make sure it is seen to be doing something.
The main problem is that no-one has arrived at a way (or series of ways) of doing education that will definitely lead to equality of opportunity. From assessment to curriculum, the jury is not so much still out, but hasn’t even been assembled yet, because understanding of these things is still inadequate. And without a credible method to measure attainment and progress how can a school’s performance be evaluated?
Society, Government and Ofsted want quick fixes. There are no quick fixes. We need to understand what is really going on, and what the solutions really are, before we can implement meaningful changes for which schools and staff can rightly be held accountable for. Otherwise we are only applying short-termism Disney sticking plasters. As Alex says, we definitely “need to recognise the obvious inequality that is the “Ofsted Matthew Effect” and start working on a better solution.”