Gone Off Sted

This year, the school at which I work was inspected. The last time that Ofsted descended was in October 2008, so we spent a long decade expecting them. The stakes were high. We were previously judged to be ‘outstanding’ (a silly term) and the most we could have hoped for was to retain that grading. In fact the school was moved down to ‘good’, the reasons cited being, in my opinion, unreasonable. I am not just being a loyal employee for saying this; there were some negative aspects of the school to which the inspectors were seemingly oblivious. The senior teachers (at the time of inspection I was a part time, junior teacher) must have sighed relief when it was all over.

It was in the news this week that a Primary Headteacher in Reading took her own life because of inspectors’ decisions to downgrade her school from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’, which seems to be a ludicrous level of decline. I can well understand her angst at such a move; the Headteacher bears the brunt of the blame. The inspectors have very little accountability and sometimes even have day jobs at rival schools. One inspector came to my lesson, a Sixth Form Politics class. He was in for ten minutes and spent them typing up what he had seen elsewhere that day. For having been in mine, the inspectors could claim another lesson for their tally. All very farcical.

One of the problems with Ofsted (of which there are a great many) is that they love to criticise but only occasionally praise. Worse, they offer little or no guidance on how to improve. When they fail a school, it receives little or no extra cash or support, and their damning verdict can deter new pupils and staff from applying to go there, further confounding its woes. Perhaps I have been teaching too long (a situation soon to be remedied) but I wonder that if heaven’s inspectorate ever came to assess my life and our church, what would their ratings be? Unlike their earthly equivalent in the education sector, which publishes a new ‘framework’ each September to which all schools must scramble to adapt, God’s own, changeless word is the standard by which we shall be evaluated. Although the Bible may expose our lives and churches to be less adequate than they might be, the Holy Spirit grants us both the desire, and the means, to improve. Although I still get much wrong, I am closer now to the Lord than I once was. I am not just dismissed as a poor disciple, I am given the power to transform.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2
Image by Maria from Pixabay