Monday. 22 December 2014

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Ofsted inspectors ‘for hire’ to help schools pass vital inspections

Schools desperate to pass Ofsted inspections pay contracted inspectors as consultants

The unique dual experiences gained from work both as head teacher and in Ofsted-related roles gives us the edge

Alwyne Jolly, director, Weatheroak Inspections

Ofsted inspectors are hiring themselves out for up to £600 a day to advise schools on how to pass official inspections.

The regulator for schools and other children’s services bans its staff inspectors from working as consultants to schools. But more than 1,000 contracted inspectors are allowed to put themselves up for hire, even offering to carry out “mock” inspections.

Ofsted – or the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills – says that it has no plans to stop those inspectors, who work on a freelance basis, from making money in this way.

Former Ofsted inspectors are also cashing in on head teachers’ fears of failing inspections.

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, a pressure group that presses for higher standards in schools, said: “This gives an unfair advantage to schools that have the resources to pay for them. I would rather that it were spent on books and teachers’ materials rather than these mock inspections that train schools how to jump through hoops and hit particular targets – not teach.”

McGovern, a former Ofsted inspector himself, continued: “I do not see any difference between this and the scandal in which exam boards held coaching sessions for teachers. There is a conflict of interest.” He was “surprised” that Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector and head of Ofsted, had not tried to stamp out the practice.

Schools are under huge pressure to perform well in Ofsted inspections because they can define their future as either successful or failing, especially in the eyes of parents choosing where to send their children. They can even ultimately lead to the replacing of a head teacher or closing down of a school.

A range of companies and individuals have sprung up to offer bespoke mock Ofsted inspections and advice.

Weatheroak Inspections advertises a “full preparation for inspection” package for £800. It includes “advice and editing of the school’s analysis and information which would form the basis of its self-evaluation.” It also offers a “one-day MOT” for £400.

Weatheroak’s director is Alwyne Jolly, a former head teacher and an Ofsted inspector. The company says in its pitch to schools: “The unique dual experiences gained from work both as head teacher and in Ofsted-related roles gives us the edge in advising you of how to manage your inspection.”

But Jolly sought to play down the controversy, telling Exaro: “There has not been a call for it recently. I just work as a school inspector now.”

Andrew Lagden Education Consultants offers a full day “pre-inspection briefing” by an Ofsted inspector for £600. The consultancy describes itself as “a team of very experienced education professionals, with current Ofsted experience, offering practical and value-for-money support on academy conversion, preparation for inspection…”

It continues: “The team is headed up by Andrew Lagden, who is a very experienced educational consultant and school inspector in both primary and secondary phases.”

He did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him.

Angela Kirk, who describes herself as a “lead additional inspector for Ofsted”, offers “leadership and management support for head teachers, senior leaders and their schools”.

She charges £500 for a day’s consultancy, such as “discussing and evaluating the quality of teaching and learning to agree the judgements using Ofsted criteria.”

There is also a session aimed at helping school governors “understand how Ofsted judges attainment, progress and achievement.”

She said: “As an Ofsted inspector, I am not allowed to talk to the media.”

Ofsted says that it also has contracts with four providers that supply what are known as “additional inspectors”.

The providers say that they never hire out inspectors to give advice to schools.

But that does not prevent such inspectors offering their own consultancy services to schools.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “Ofsted has a robust policy in place that insists that all inspectors disclose whether there are any conflicts of interest with a school. This ensures that an inspector who has provided advice to a school would not be involved in any inspection activity with that same school.”

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