Highfields is a good school

I was recently talking to someone thinking of moving into the Matlock area and was taken aback to hear her say that Highfields had just had a “bad Ofsted” report. All three of my children attended Highfields, the youngest having left Y13 in 2010.

I have nothing but praise for the staff – teaching and non-teaching – at the school.

They are a dedicated, committed and talented, group of hard-working people whose week in week out efforts can easily go unnoticed. The recent Highfields inspection took place at the beginning of the new school year, the worst possible time for such an inspection to take place.

Since Ofsted began inspecting schools it has constantly revised and narrowed its inspection criteria. The fact is that Ofsted inspections lack consistency. I spent over thirty years in the teaching profession.

I was involved in the very first Ofsted inspection at my school, it was a very rigorous affair which lasted from Monday morning until Friday lunchtime and was conducted by well over 20 inspectors.

The outcome was that the school was deemed ‘satisfactory’. The final Ofsted inspection I was involved in – at the same school – was a so-called ‘light-touch’ inspection undertaken by two people and took place one Thursday morning resulting in the school being classed as ‘outstanding’.

Most people do not sit down and read Ofsted reports. Highfields is not the first good school in the area to suffer at the hands of Ofsted.

The fact that someone from out of the area hears that the local school has had a “bad Ofsted” shows just how irresponsible and damaging Ofsted’s pronouncements can be to what is in fact a very good school.

Indeed, the Ofsted report itself actually states that all lessons observed were good or satisfactory and some were outstanding. Sixth Form provision is rated as ‘good’.

The major criticisms relate to teaching and learning.

The problem here is that ‘teaching and learning’ has become such an obsession with Ofsted in recent years that the criteria set in these self-evidently important facets of school life are becoming idealistic, unrealistic, and largely unattainable, with the result that they have a demoralising effect on staff and students alike.

Maybe its time a body was set up to inspect Ofsted. Meanwhile, the people of the Matlock area should not be misled, generally speaking their children are in good hands at Highfields School.

Terry Kilburn

Darley Dale