2 min read
05 Jun

The Headrest team have declined to submit a response to Ofsted’s “Big Listen”. 

We compared the focus of “The Big Listen” to the format of The Alternative Big Listen. Created by former HMI, Frank Norris MBE and Professor Colin Richards, the survey asked several crucial questions that we had hoped would appear in Ofsted’s own survey. 

We would thus encourage Ofsted to also consider the findings from this alternative listening exercise. Furthermore, we would strongly urge anyone who has not completed this survey to do so by June 12th. 

From a Headrest perspective the frequency of calls we have received with an Ofsted focus have diminished. We welcome this and hope this reflects the inspectorate’s increased focus on school leader well-being. 

However, we are still receiving calls where it is apparent to us that not all school inspectors have displayed due regard to Ofsted’s attempts to encourage a more empathetic and caring approach. 

Indeed, in recent months we have talked with individuals who we believe were at genuine risk of either ending their own life or doing themselves significant self-harm. 

It is our strongly held opinion that inspectorial insensitivity and crassness may have been deemed a major contributory factor had the worst-case scenario arisen. 

The Ofsted stressors our callers have shared with us over the last eighteen months are summarised below: 

  • The anxiety and pressure of being in the Ofsted window.
  • The inconsistency of inspectors.
  • The unsuitability of a one model fits all inspection framework.
  • The deleterious impact of single-word judgements.
  • An inspectorial lack of awareness of the challenges faced by small schools.
  • Disregard of mitigating factors outside of a school’s control.
  • The two “requires improvement” cliff-edge.
  • The inability to share the Ofsted outcome with others.
  • Differences between inspection feedback and the content of the final report.
  • Special schools being inspected by individuals with an alarming paucity of knowledge of this type of provision. (A similar concern has also applied to Early Years and Alternative Provisions.)
  • Inspector rudeness.
  • The lack of post-inspection well-being support available to school leaders.

We will forward this statement to Sir Martyn Oliver. We will also attach a copy of our annual report to add to his “Big Listen” evidence base. 

We very much hope that Ofsted will consider, and reflect upon, evidence received beyond their own “Big Listen” survey.

Later this year we publish 'Beyond Belief: Why Accountability Is Broken and How to Fix It' (John Catt). The book consists of insights and reflections from more than 30 contributors, including headteachers (past and present), journalists, parents, researchers, former HMI, writers, chairs of governors, teachers and trust CEOs. We hope it turns out to be a timely book as we seek to find a more holistic and humane approach to how we hold ourselves and each other to account. We shall send a copy to HMCI and the new secretary of state. 

You can pre-order a copy here.

All proceeds from royalties will go to education charities. 

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