Why did the top education system in the world get rid of school inspectors?

Pasi Sahlberg was the last Chief Inspector for schools in Finland. After that the government got rid of these “hanging judges”, turning them into supportive advisers, and leaving schools to inspect themselves. Here, in his talk in the House of Commons this May, he explains the rationale behind the decision. In the talk below, he identifies “GERM” — the Global Education Reform Movement — as being responsible for standardised testing, teacher accountability, school inspections and a centrally imposed curriculum. He says that GERM has lowered standards, not raised them. It’s only when you start trusting teachers that standards go up. I hope you enjoying another gem from my new educational guru; he really has inspired me to think again about so many things. Please forgive the rather gleeful tone in the headlines that start this video; I realise now I went a bit over the top! Of course, Finnish schools are not the best because they got rid of inspectors — as I claim rather ironically at the beginning of the video — but this was one element in them becoming top class. I am a teacher who has had two decades at the mercy of Ofsted, or managers threatening me with Ofsted; I’ve come to think that possibly they do more harm than good and that their role should be much more supportive. Certainly the new Ofsted framework is nonsensically draconian, getting inspectors to make snap judgements on things that they know nothing about. I’ve heard that there is even disquiet in the Tory shires about these inspections because the inspectors are failing perfectly good rural schools on quite arbitrary grounds. Gove’s Gradgrind tactics are beginning to lose the Conservatives votes.

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Published by: @wonderfrancis

Francis Gilbert is a Lecturer in Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, teaching on the PGCE Secondary English programme. He also teaches the Creative Writing module on the MA in Children’s Literature, which is run by Maggie Pitfield and Professor Michael Rosen. Previously, he worked for a quarter of a century in various English state schools teaching English and Media Studies to 11-18 year olds. He has, at times, moonlighted as a journalist, novelist and social commentator. He is the author of ‘Teacher On The Run’, ‘Yob Nation’, ‘Parent Power’, ‘Working The System -- How To Get The Very Best State Education for Your Child’, and a novel about school, ‘The Last Day Of Term’. His first book, ‘I'm A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here’ was a big hit, becoming a bestseller and being serialised on Radio 4. In his role as an English teacher, he has taught many classic texts over the years and has developed a great many resources to assist readers with understanding, appreciating and responding to them both analytically and creatively. This led him to set up his own small publishing company FGI Publishing (fgipublishing.com) which has published his study guides as well as a number of books by other authors, including Roger Titcombe’s ‘Learning Matters’ and anthology of creative writing 'The Gold Room'. He is the co-founder, with Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar, of The Local Schools Network, www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk, a blog that celebrates non-selective state schools, and has his own website, www.francisgilbert.co.uk. He has appeared numerous times on radio and TV, including Newsnight, the Today Programme, Woman’s Hour and the Russell Brand Show. In June 2015, he was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing and Education by Goldsmiths.

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