Head tells Ofsted how to improve

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A school principal who publicly called for the education watchdog Ofsted to be scrapped was invited to help it decide how to change for the better.

Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy, described the organisation’s set up as “deeply flawed” in his regular column in the Mansfield Chad earlier this month.

Claiming that it has “no discernible impact on standards whatsoever”, Mr Cottingham said that its reports dated quickly and that a bad Ofsted report could be devastating to a school’s reputation.

He said, Ofsted should be scrapped and replaced with a new system using local inspectors, with only the most under-performing schools referred to the Government.

Just days after the column was published on the Chad’s website, Mr Cottingham received a phone call from Ofsted inviting him in for a meeting with Emma Ing, regional director of Ofsted for the East Midlands.

During the meeting, which was also attended by Steve McMullan, the Senior HMI for Derbyshire, Mr Cottingham was asked to discuss his thoughts and suggest ways in which Ofsted, rather than scrapping itself, could improve to help teachers, students and parents get more out of the system.

He now says that that he is feeling more confident about Ofsted’s ability to properly rate schools after learning in detail how it wants to switch away from judging schools based on their exam results and looking at their all-round benefits to students, including teaching them subjects such as art, PE and Music and arranging extra-curricular activities.

Mr Cottingham said: “While I knew that Ofsted weren’t calling to arrange an inspection, I was apprehensive about what they would say to me after I had called for the organisation to be scrapped.

“As it turned out, the meeting was very positive. They admitted that Ofsted has become too focussed on exam results and that it wants to change its judgement criteria in order to take more of what a school was doing for its students into account.

“Ofsted is launching a consultation to find out what teachers want and I was pleased to have been able to share my point of view.

“Ofsted still wants to give schools ratings, which I don’t agree with, but I’m happier knowing that parents will be given a fuller picture about a school’s strengths, which will help them to decide which school is best for their child in the future.”