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Title: Concerns with Ofsted inspections of ITT - justified or just "grumpy old teacher educators"?
Authors: Cale, Lorraine
Harris, Josephine P.
Issue Date: 2008
Citation: CALE, L. and HARRIS, J., 2008. Concerns with Ofsted inspections of ITT - justified or just "grumpy old teacher educators"? British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 3-6 September 2008
Abstract: Background: Since 1995, the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) has inspected the quality of all Initial Teacher Training (ITT) provision in England on behalf of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA). According to the current Ofsted framework, the main purposes of the inspection of ITT are "to ensure public accountability for the quality of ITT; stimulate improvement in the quality of provision; provide objective judgements on providers for public information; inform policy; enable the statutory link to be made between funding and quality; and check compliance with statutory requirements" (Ofsted, 2005, p. 1). Other proposed purposes of ITT inspection include for comparison or compliance (Blake et al., 1995). Since the introduction of ITT inspection however, generally the response from teacher educators has been negative (Graham, 1997; Sutherland, 1997) and a number of concerns and issues have been raised over the inspection process and/or the frameworks adopted (see for example, Cale & Harris, 2003; Campbell & Husbands 2000; Hardy & Evans, 2000; Sinkinson & Jones, 2001). Focus of Enquiry: The focus of this enquiry is on the Ofsted experiences of a higher education institution-based ITT secondary provider in the East Midlands. The provider trains approximately 130 teachers a year via a one year Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course. Based primarily on the experiences and reflections of ITT staff following their most recent "short" inspection of their PGCE course in 2005/06, this paper provides a further critical account of ITT inspection as a follow up to earlier papers published by the researchers and colleagues and aims to highlight some of the concerns with inspection and the current inspection framework and process. Whilst most of the concerns identified relate to inspection generally and are issues faced by all providers, others are specific to the provider’s and researchers’ own Ofsted experiences and stem from issues and/or situations which primarily arose during their recent inspection. Although the paper is a critique, it is important to note that the provider and staff in question are not anti-inspection, nor wish to appear merely ‘grumpy old teacher educators’ intent on bemoaning a system for no good reason. To the contrary, the importance of accountability and continual improvement is recognized. Rather, it is hoped that fellow professionals will be able to relate to and/or sympathise with the concerns and concur that any "grumpiness" is justified. Research Methods: The account is informed by data from various sources. ITT staff who were involved in the inspection kept journals for a period of seven months leading up to, during, and following the inspection in which they detailed their Ofsted activities, experiences and reflections. Staff periodically completed their journals recording the preparation, work and meetings they were involved in, and noting and reflecting on any problems, issues, concerns, anxieties, frustrations and/or other emotions they experienced. Documentary evidence in the form of Ofsted Handbooks, Guidance plus other paperwork the inspection generated was also collected for analysis. Finally, to augment and support the findings from the journals and documentary evidence, a review of related literature was undertaken. Analysis of the data involved identification of the key issues. Findings: From the above, a number of concerns and issues and some fundamental flaws with ITT inspection and the current inspection framework and process were identified. Some of the major and general concerns related to, or associated with inspection included the high stakes involved, in that Ofsted inspection results are published and the TDA is required to take the outcomes into account when funding ITT provision and allocating ITT places; the validity, reliability and credibility of the inspection process and framework; and the tensions and contradictions between inspection, the base and resulting report for which is the university, and the notion of ITT as a model of partnership. More specific issues relating to the provider’s experiences in question related to the general conduct of inspections, for example, in terms of the frequency, timing and notice given and the unreasonable expectations and requests often made by the inspectors; the "stage management" required for such "events"; and the impact of inspection on providers, schools, and trainees. The latter included the increased pressure and workload on all involved as well as the cost and financial implications of inspection. In summary though, the paper concludes that the current inspection framework is fundamentally flawed and if the issue is not soon rectified, the future provision of ITT could seriously be jeopardized. Further, it is noted how the situation this provider currently faces as a consequence of the inspection framework is posing a serious threat to the future of their secondary ITT course. ITT staff therefore not only feel deeply worried by this, but exceptionally and justifiably "grumpy"!
Description: This is a conference paper, presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 3-6 September 2008. Also available at http://www.leeds.ac.uk/bei/COLN/COLN_default.html
Version: Not specified
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/4570
Appears in Collections:Conference Papers and Presentations (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences)

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