Striking against ‘mock Ofsteds’

Alistair Tice

Over 30 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) took strike action on 6 December at Westfield Sports College, a secondary school in Sheffield.

The dispute is about management’s insistence on conducting observations in the style of schools inspectorate Ofsted, what the teachers are calling “mock Ofsteds”. Initially the Head wanted a “two day window”, meaning that teachers could be observed at any time within a two-day period.

This was brought down to a “one-day window”, but the NUT has rightly insisted on the implementation of the NUT/NASUWT protocol that the times of observations should be agreed at least five days in advance.

This issue has been brought to a head by the school implementing “deep coaching” for any teachers judged to have performed poorly in observation. This is the equivalent of teachers being put in Special Measures, and a step before being put into the Capability procedure which stays on a teacher’s record.

The NUT members have been given confidence into taking action by the NUT’s national action short of a strike. A further two-day then three-day strikes are planned over the next two weeks.

Most of the 20 or so on the picket line were young teachers. Many students joined the picket line before going into school. They didn’t have to do any maths on that day as the entire maths department was on strike!

Joint branch secretary of Sheffield NUT Toby Mallinson told me: “This is dictatorship not leadership. It’s about looking for failure. It puts teachers under even more stress and undermines their confidence which in turn undermines their performance. This strike is about who runs the school. Is it just the head or is it all the teachers and staff? This strike gives teachers the confidence to stand up to management bullying.”

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