New Chapter: why I’m moving on from CfEY to Ofsted


4th November 2019

In December, I’ll be making the move from The Centre for Education and Youth to Ofsted to become their Senior Strategy Analyst. If you had told me when I was teaching that some seven years later, I would be joining them, I would have raised more than an eyebrow. After all, I was in the midst of a system where I was frequently told to do things for Ofsted and sometimes, I confess, mistakenly saying the same things myself.  Ofsted were firmly the enemy, no doubt about it.

So, why am I going to work at Ofsted? When I left teaching, I felt that as hard as I tried as an individual, the system was letting down students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the professionals who supported them. I was keen to look at the bigger picture and get the voices of those who were seldom heard into the heart of policy making. That included professionals themselves – and it’s no coincidence that I’ve spent a lot of the last few years researching what motivates teachers to stay in the profession – and marginalised children and young people who were often missing from the debate.

It’s been an incredible seven years at LKMco, right from the early days with Loic Menzies and Laura McInerney, to our team of twelve in the newly named Centre for Education and Youth. The energy, initiative and thoughtfulness of the team will be hard to say goodbye to, and I have no end of gratitude to Loic for taking a punt on me, a teacher fresh from the classroom who was about to go on a very steep learning curve.

Now it’s time for a new challenge. There’s a lot to feel positive about when it comes to Ofsted right now and there are three key things I’ve learnt during my time at CfEY that I’m hoping will help when I make the move:

  1. Policymakers want constructive criticism: When I started at LKMco, the DfE seemed like a monolith of immovable policy, but here’s what I now know: MPs, policymakers and those around them are often well aware of the problems in the system and they are keen to hear sensible policy ideas. It’s all well and good making noise about what’s broken, but unless you have a coherent plan for how to fix it, it’s hard to convince those with the power to affect change. During the time I’ve already spent at Ofsted (both on secondment and as part of their curriculum advisory group), I’ve been asking awkward questions and making recommendations about how to move forward, and this has always been welcomed. There are plenty of improvements that have already happened in Ofsted recently, both in their commitment to an evidence-informed approach and the new framework. I look forward to helping them consider the impact they are having on the ground and the future direction of travel. Who knows what the future will hold for Ofsted now an election has been called, but whatever happens, there will be a need for suggestions as to what the future of inspection should look like.
  1. Divisions don’t help: I’m all for informed debate, but all too often in politics and, at times, on EduTwitter, people tread well-worn paths that pit one side against another: leave or remain, exclusion vs inclusion, Ofsted vs teachers. In reality, it’s often only by acknowledging and understanding someone else’s position that the seeds of a solution can be found.We’d all do better to listen more and jump to conclusions less. In this new role, I’ll be bringing expertise and insights from the sector into Ofsted to help them embed the new framework and shape the future of inspection. The teacher in me can’t help but get excited by that!
  1. Spotting gaps matters: Sometimes people are so busy being clever, they miss the bleedin’ obvious, and whilst this isn’t something I have noticed in my interactions with Ofsted, it’s something to be mindful of in any situation. In the early days, I would occasionally be sat quietly with my own imposter syndrome at a roundtable, kicking myself for not asking questions that highlighted gaps or the practicalities of what it’s actually like to work with children and young people. Nowadays, I’m less worried about speaking up and I’m getting better at pointing out who is missing at the table. Again, this is something I fully intend to continue with in my new role.

So, back to the question: why am I moving to Ofsted? Put simply, I owe it to former colleagues, and the students we supported to try and change the system from the inside. All the experience I’ve had with Ofsted so far tells me things have changed for the better, something I’m keen to build on. The potential for this role to have impact is too good to turn down.

As for the brilliant team at what was LKMco, a new chapter awaits them as The Centre for Education and Youth. I have no doubt that they will continue to be a positive force for good in education and youth debates, linking the ‘think’ and the ‘action’ to change things in policy and on the ground.

One of the last things I’ll be helping with before I move on is recruiting two new members of the CfEY team, so, if you want to help them continue injecting that bit more evidence, integrity and fun into the sector, you can find out more here.