The former headteacher of Lynn’s King Edward VII School (KES) has spoken out about the difficulties of constantly changing goalposts in the Ofsted inspection system.
Mike Douglass retired this summer, 12 months after his school registered poor GCSE results and was placed in special measures.
The inspection came two weeks after Ofsted had introduced a new inspection framework.
In 2009, KES had been graded “good with outstanding features” and in 2012 it was judged “satisfactory.”
Writing in The Old Lennensian, newsletter for former KES pupils, Mr Douglass said: “Essentially all the same systems and policies were in place and the staff were mainly the same as when we were previously visited.
“The only change was the framework and our results for the summer exams 2013.
“We all felt the judgment was harsh and we made a series of complaints to Ofsted.”
Mr Douglass spoke of how the school population dramatically changed in his 18 years at the school, 12 of which were served as headteacher, rising to 1,380 pupils in 2009.
The proportion of children with English as an additional language grew to one of the highest in Norfolk, he said, and the proportion of children with learning needs was also significantly higher than the average secondary school in the UK.
He said all school leaders would agree with the need for accountability but said a question remained over whether Ofsted was the right instrument to judge.
He said inspection frameworks changed constantly, sometimes in the middle of a school term.
He added: “Each inspection regime change raises the bar on the standards expected and schools are always running to keep still.
“I have never yet met a teacher who was not passionate about wanting to do well in an inspection.
“However, I have seen some of the damaging effects that feedback to colleagues from inspection teams over the years had to some skilled dedicated teachers as well as to the whole school community.”
Changes in performance measures were also a challenge.
Mr Douglass said: “These measures changed with frightening regularity over items to be included making year-on-year comparisons impossible and which saw many schools seeking to find ways of ‘playing the system’ to show them in the best possible light.
“Unlike a number of schools we did not play this game but carried on delivering what we felt was in the best interests of the children.”
Mr Douglass said his school embraced the opportunity to give students alternatives to GCSEs where appropriate.
He said the school also had a focus on teaching life skills.
He said: “It is these skills that will stand the test of time.”
After Mr Douglass’s departure, KES became an academy under the guidance of the College of West Anglia, with Craig Morrison as principal.