An education system obsessed with Ofsted leads to a tick box culture. This is poison. It creates broken schools. An organisation with a tick box mindset is easy to spot. Staff are overworked. They don’t understand the purpose behind the tasks they complete. They complain about minutiae. Positive changes meet resistance. Cynicism reigns supreme.
A tick box culture is one whose purpose is driven from the outside. The organisation does not set its own agenda. It is built on fragile foundations. It relies on the current flavour of political party. It adheres to whatever the current focus of Ofsted inspections may be. It introduces new boxes through fear of missing externally set standards. Staff responsibility is driven by external agendas.
The antidote to a poisonous tick box culture is strong leadership. Strong leaders set the tone for an organisation. They determine what is important and what is not. They shield staff from external pressures and create space to focus on important tasks. Strong leadership defines what “outstanding” is. They do not need a “framework” or “criteria” to do that. They create their own definition. Great leaders set this standard higher than anything Ofsted would expect.
An organisation with strong leadership also has hallmarks. It is focused. Staff aren’t overworked as they concentrate on important activities that contribute to the overall vision of “outstanding”. People do not focus on minutiae as they are buoyed by their role in contributing to excellence. Staff embrace change, as long as it contributes to their shared vision of an outstanding school or college. Everyone knows what standard is expected of them. All staff members uphold these standards. Sub-par performance is not tolerated. Tasks aren’t performed to tick a box; they are executed as they have a clear purpose and contribute to “outstanding”.
A truly outstanding organisation contains multiple leaders; in fact, everyone is a leader. Everyone sets the agenda that leads to an outstanding culture. People do not complain. You cannot hear “if we had a strong leader, we’d be outstanding”. People lead themselves. They drive the change. They first focus on their area of influence and “look after their own back yard”. They then expand this influence by helping others. Tick boxes vanish. Eery task has a purpose. If it doesn’t contribute to the overall vision, it is ignored.
The funny thing is, organisations that operate like this end up ticking the boxes by happy accident.