Fooling the inspector

Britain’s school inspectors are easily deceived, writes Theodore Dalrymple  in City Journal, citing the Times Educational Supplement.

. . . once the principals know that an inspection is coming, many employ techniques such as paying disruptive pupils to stay home, sending bad pupils on day trips to amusement parks, pretending to take disciplinary action against bad teachers, drafting well-regarded teachers temporarily from other schools, borrowing displays of student work done in other schools, and so forth.

The inspectorate will begin making unannounced inspections.

Britain’s school inspectorate should be a model for the U.S., argues a recent Education Sector report.

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  1. Craig Jerald says:

    Nowhere in Dalrymple’s op ed does he offer the slightest bit of evidence to support his completely outrageous claim that “many” principals engage in such deceptions. Indeed, since schools only receive one to two days notice of an inspection, it’s very difficult to believe that principals would have sufficient time to “draft well-regarded teachers temporarily” from other schools or to plan multi-day trips to amusement parks for badly behaved students. In fact, the House of Commons conducted an extensive and intensive study of “the role and performance of Ofsted” [the English inspectorate] last year and concluded that unannounced visits are unnecessary because the current short-notice system is working well. Please note that the members of Parliament interviewed many witnesses critical of Ofsted during their study. A very tiny number of educators will always find ways to cheat any accountability system (just as some people will always try to cheat on their taxes), but claiming that “many” English principals engage in such bald deceptions is a massive insult both to Ofsted and to educators in England.

    • Michael Bruce says:

      I am afraid you are wrong on two counts. Heads often have (perhaps unofficially) far more than two days’ notice of an inspection – I have been in morning staff meetings where an OFSTED visit was announced long before the event, with the reminder “Make sure all work is marked up to date and you have some decent lessons prepared.”

      Secondly, it is more than a rogue minority of heads who play the system. While I have never known teachers to be borrowed from another school I have certainly known other frauds: notably, bad pupils are told to stay at home and “be ill” for the duration.

      Again, fraudulent practices are common in the exam system. In the last years of my teaching career I worked as a supply teacher. Now, nobody bothers to lie to supply teachers: we are the lowest of the low, and accordingly get a worm’s eye view of the real state of affairs. I think that regular staff imagine that we have lower intelligence than they. I have been in more than one school where GCSE and ‘A’ level work was faked: papers for modular exams were opened the day before the test so that the pupils could be prepared and coursework (especially for borderline students) was often substantially rewritten by the teacher.

      For the record, I did blow the whistle to the exam boards concerned: on only one occasion was any action taken (a modular test was cancelled by a visiting examiner and new papers ssued at a later date), but the teacher concerned has not suffered: she is still the head of languages in a local secondary school.

      I did not know at the time, but I am not surprised that the boards for extra profit run seminars in which they themselves leak the contents of the papers to teachers.

      You need to be a teacher in Britain to know just how universally ineffective and often corrupt the school system is.

  2. George Larson says:

    Published in TES magazine on 13 January, 2012 | By: Tony Callaghan

    Last Updated:

    13 January, 2012



    The stuff described by TES has been going on in schools for years. Why such “shock, horror”? Painting the grass green and the coal black has been a feature of any organisation subject to external inspection. Rigorous appraisal of school management teams by inspectors would sort out the bovine manure.

    Tony Callaghan, Former middle school headteacher,