Halifax head teacher criticises Ofsted for “inaccurate” and “misleading” report on school

Parkinson Lane school in Halifax has submitted an official complaint to Ofsted after being told it requires improvement in its latest report.

The school is rated good in behaviour and attitudes and personal development, but has been told it falls short in early years provision, leadership and management and the quality of education.

Gugsy Ahmed

Gugsy Ahmed

But headteacher Gugsy Ahmed appalled and profoundly disappointed at the way Ofsted conducted its inspection.

“I have been a headteacher for a very long time and have been fortunate enough to lead a fabulous team of outstanding, committed staff for nearly two decades,” he said. “The school has been judged outstanding for much of that time.

“My disappointment with the Ofsted process and its new Education Inspection Framework is profound.

“Ofsted claim the curriculum would be at the centre of its new focus, data would be downgraded.

“This would allow schools in deprived challenging areas an opportunity to showcase the quality of its teaching and learning and in turn the depth of the diversity of its work.

“After all, the main objective of education is to teach children how to think, not what to think, giving them the skills they need for the future and to find their place in society and make a positive contribution.

“Unfortunately, inspectors came in with a very negative view of the school based on data outcomes in the early years and key stage 1.

“These tests show our children are below national average - thanks for stating the obvious. We didn’t need these tests or Ofsted to tell us this.

“The children arrive at school with a very underdeveloped first language, let alone English, – many are not potty trained and lack social skills appropriate to a child of five years old.”To expect them to attain national average by the end of the year is delusional. However, great strides are made and the learning journey the children go on is very steep.

“It should be noted that the tests are internally marked, unfortunately Ofsted only look at the headline data and don’t deep dive into the observations and challenging conversation behind this detail.

“I also note with great frustration that the Ofsted report does not mention the latter four years of the children’s education - the fruits of all the staff’s work.

“The fact that our children perform above national average in tests that are marked externally by the time they leave the school in Key Stage 2. Then again, I’m not surprised because this didn’t give the inspectors the rhetoric needed to criticise the outstanding work done by the staff.

“Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director, admits that schools with more deprived pupil intakes are still disproportionally being given negative Ofsted judgements.

“The summative judgements that inspectors came to are simply inaccurate or misleading.

“Poachers becoming not very good game keepers’ springs to mind. It is preposterous to state that standards in school have declined. In Ofsted’s terminology lets deep dive and systemically look at the reasons why this is such a farcical statement: a) The percentage of children attaining national average in all key stages have gone up. This is despite Ofsted repeated claims they have raised the bar; b) Ofsted are not judging like for like. There is a new national curriculum in place – different tests and a different inspection schedule. So, to come to this statement is not rational. For example, in 2010, children were asked four times five equals, but in 2019 they would be asked, four children go into a post office and buy 20 stamps, they take an equal number of stamps; how many does each child receive?

“As you can see, the skills needed to answer the second question are far greater. Fair testing is obviously not a strength for Ofsted.

“In response to the Ofsted report we have raised a factual inaccuracy check. We had a limited time to complete this but managed to complete this in about eight hours and amongst donkeys arriving for nursery to perform the nativity for the community and members from St Hilda’s Church. The lead inspector responded in what seemed like 15 minutes dismissing the factual inaccuracy with minimal comments.

“As a result, we have had no choice but to raise an official complaint and have completed a form that looks at process, conduct and judgements. We have based this complaint on accuracy linked to the Ofsted statements, code of conduct and the inspection evidence base.

“Poorly trained HMI with little understanding and poorly trained inspections do very little in improving the quality of teaching and learning. Teachers working in already challenging circumstances attaining results from low starting points to above national expectation should be commended.

“As an ex Ofsted inspector I am appalled and embarrassed by this team. Inspections conducted in this manner, inaccurate reporting will do nothing but to demoralise and run education into the ground. Valuable resources re-directed to things which do nothing but superficially improve outsiders’ perspectives. A disproportionate amount of time was spent by the inspectors on relationships and sex education and issues to do with up skirting – all very important issues but let’s have a bit of common sense as well.

“We put our trust in the complaints system to put things right. However, if anyone would like to visit Parkinson Lane School please get in touch. I would be most happy to show you around. I’m certain you will see a very different school to the picture that the Ofsted report portrays.”

The school’s rating at its previous inspection was outstanding, but it has now been told that monitoring of the quality of education has not given leaders an accurate view of the shortcomings that exist.

The report also says governors do not challenge leaders about some vital aspects of the school’s performance, including pupils’ outcomes, and that in some areas of the curriculum, leaders’ ambition for pupils’ achievement is not high enough.

Procedures, policies and checks with regard to safeguarding practices are not as tight as they should be, according to the report, which also says the needs of pupils with special educational needs are not identified accurately.

But the report praises the school in other areas, saying staff build strong relationships with each other, pupils, and parents and carers, and that that pupils enjoy learning, and are happy and well mannered in the school’s “warm and supportive atmosphere”.

The report says teachers’ knowledge of the subjects they teach is strong and they value the training they receive.

Leaders have carefully planned some parts of the curriculum, says the report, but whole-school plans do not consistently set ambitious goals for pupils. This means that the work they do is often too easy.