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Ofsted grades don’t affect teacher retention – How headteachers manage does

It pains me to say it but after 22 years in education, I don’t think Ofsted is the problem – your school management team is...

  • Ofsted grades don’t affect teacher retention – How headteachers manage does

Ofsted must exist. There must be spot checks carried out in schools in order to protect children and to encourage improvement and recognise success.

Yes, Ofsted can improve. Yes, it is beginning to listen to school leaders. Yes, they are regularly looking at ways to make the process fairer and less threatening.

I have experienced eight Ofsted inspections in various schools. I have fully experienced the emotions involved when receiving the Ofsted result. Good and bad.

I have worked for nine headteachers – all of them very different in their approach.

I have worked in ‘good’ schools where the atmosphere is dreadful.

I have worked in ‘requires improvement’ schools where the atmosphere is extremely positive.

I know teachers in ‘outstanding’ schools who hate their job.

Teacher retention has very little to do with your school’s Ofsted grade. It has everything to do with how your school is managed and how the head copes with the pressures to improve the school.

My summary of how three particular heads managed their school:

School A: ‘Requires improvement’

“I will improve this school by introducing non-negotiables that suffocate teacher autonomy. I will carry out excessive book looks and learning walks. I will put teachers on support plans over the slightest imperfections. I will tell staff what to put up on display boards and how they should be presented. I will regularly test children for data purposes. I won’t invest in teacher wellbeing or fully understand the pressures involved teaching in this particular catchment area. Y6 pupils will spend the year in booster groups at the expense of the wider curriculum. I will do whatever it takes to get a good Ofsted grade.”

Result: The atmosphere at school was awful. Very good teachers left. Long-term sickness was an issue. Because the SATs results improved, the school was later judged ‘good’. It was not a good school.

School B: ‘Requires improvement’

“I will improve this school by reading literature on educational research. I will improve this school by refusing to carry out booster groups all year for Y6. I will regularly address and discuss workload with staff and try, where possible, to cut down on non-negotiables that are not in the pupils’ or teachers’ interest. I will insist that the arts have priority in the school and stop the obsession with literacy and maths. I won’t put staff on support plans just because their data isn’t great. I will praise staff for their efforts. I will give back autonomy to teachers wherever possible. I want to treat staff professionally and fully trust them to do their job.

Result: The atmosphere was great. Staff were happy most of the time. Long-term sickness was non-existent. SATs results were average to good. The school was judged ‘good’. It was a good school. Pupils were happy. Teachers had job satisfaction.

School C: ‘Good’

“I want more. I want his school to be ‘outstanding’. I have no family and school is my life. I will do anything to get the recognition I crave. I am obsessed with getting this school to ‘outstanding’. I will make staff work so hard and make them feel guilty for not giving up enough of their own time. I will off-roll pupils who will affect our SATs data and make it extremely difficult for pupils with special needs to enrol. SATs boosters will be standard from Y4. I will make friends in all the right places and invite important people to the school to show off my efforts.”

Result: School life was the only thing the head knew. She had no family of her own. Unfortunately, she didn’t realise many teachers did have families and needed a good work-life balance. The children were well behaved so teachers were reluctant to leave as they had heard some horror stories at other schools. Staff retention was good but they were on their knees. The pressure to improve was constant and excessive. The school was graded ‘outstanding’. It wasn’t really outstanding. It was an illusion. The head became an academy chain director earning big money and was soon implementing her policies at lots of schools.

Your Ofsted grade does not affect teacher wellbeing and overall job satisfaction.

Teacher wellbeing and job satisfaction is absolutely affected by how your head teacher decides to manage the school.

There. Said it.

The Fake Headteacher has taught in five schools across a 20 year career. Find them at headteacher-newsletter.com and follow on Twitter at @fakeheadteacher.

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