Bake Offsted

Wagon Wheel

My grown up children made this. In fact they made twenty of them. They are wagon wheel biscuits inspired by last week’s Great British Bake Off. They let me eat one and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And not just because of its taste and texture. My wagon wheel makes a point about assessment and inspection.

Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith would slate this biscuit (and fair dues my 19 and 22 year old would slate them back). This biscuit would not stop any shows or elevate any star bakers. It would fail. It would bomb. It would not meet the success criteria:

  • It’s blackberry and apple jam not strawberry.
  • Chocolate is missing from the sides.
  • The marshmallow filling is bought fluff.

But let’s see this in a different way. My adult children lead separate lives at different universities. They were home together for once and chose to collaborate. They used homemade jam; fruit from our nearby field. They saved time buying fluff. They reduced calories by skipping the chocolate sides. They compromised looks for taste. They created a complex biscuit after several fails. They had fun, they connected, they became kids in the kitchen again. It was lovely to watch.

Non of this would count in GBBO but it has great value to me. And there’s the rub with school assessment and inspection. What do you value? What counts? What REALLY matters for the children we’re launching into the world. Does Ofsted see or just look?

Public accountability for public money: a necessary safeguard. But it’s not sufficient for authentic future-focussed education. Ofsted is expanding its focus: looking wider; moving on from simple, absolute measures. But what will the new criteria be? How well will official aims match personal and global needs?

Future thinkers list many skills and qualities likely needed for 21st Century employability: a handful – maths, empathy, data literacy, negotiation, collaboration, cognitive flexibility. These and more should be the central focus of inspection. I worry that we do an exceptional job inspecting the 1980s instead of using formative comment to shape the future. Consider this; most of the children you teach this week will be alive in the the 22nd century.

Every biscuit is a success, it just depends which criteria you value. Every child is a success, it just depends how you see them and if you’ve done more that take a cursory look.

 

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