Eggs are not the only fruit

I called in on Cooking Club after school. They were just pouring their cake mix (Chocolate and Raspberry Cake) into the baking trays when I arrived.

I offered to lick out the bowls, but being as health conscious as they are the children themselves warned me about the inherent risk of food poisoning from eating uncooked eggs.

Now the activity leaders and I know that the Food Standards Agency advice on eggs has been updated recently, and is that they can, once again, be considered salmonella free and safe to eat soft boiled or even raw!

Since 4:30 I have been trying to think of a way to use this as an analogy for some part of education policy shift, and all I can come up with is the movement suggested in Ofsted’s Inspection of schools previously judged to be Outstanding.

It appears that these schools, up to 2,000 of them, some not Inspected since 2006, will soon face the prospect of a visit once every five years, just like the rest of schools. And a jolly good thing too, I say. It is patently obvious that many of these schools will still be performing really well, but some will have changed significantly in that period and will now need support and direction from external sources to return to their previous effectiveness.

We have also seen this week a suggestion by no less than the head of Ofsted that the organisation should stop ‘inspecting’ schools that are struggling to improve (they more have had successive poor or low Inspection outcomes over a number of years) and instead try supporting them.

You see, the similarity is that policy changes in all areas over time. Eggs were good, uncooked eggs were bad, and now uncooked eggs are good again.

Very, very few schools were once upon a time inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools, then all schools were Inspected, then only those not Outstanding were Inspected, now all schools will be Inspected again.

What I actually would like to see matches something I was told by a now retired Deputy Head in Doncaster. Ofsted, he said, is about proving not improving. For those schools in the most difficult circumstances, where, try as they might over years and years, they cannot overcome all the difficulties of community and context, Ofsted should be a long-term dedicated partner in school development and not the bearer of a big stick. Let’s have an Inspection regime that actually suggests how to change things around and stays around long enough to help it happen, perhaps shaping Government policy to help these schools and communities, rather than jumping in, wielding a big stick and running off with little responsibility.

Back when I was Student Union President, I did use a free range egg as a visual aid in a ‘Welcome to Sheffield City Polytechnic’ speech to new first year students on each of the then five sites of the Poly. I described how the exterior and badging of the egg could only tell you so much. To really appreciate all the egg had to offer you had to crack it open and get stuck in. The same, I said, applied to the Student Union movement and services. Eggs make good analogies, but I’m not sure cake mix does in this case.

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