How Ofsted outperforms the Department for Education in the email stakes

Yesterday I blogged about how only a third of emailed newsletters and circulars sent out by the Department for Education to schools and teachers are read by the recipients.

I also mentioned that you could choose who to blame for the low readership rate:

Who is to blame for this? If nothing else I suspect these figures are a good test of your political instincts: are you already thinking the blame lies with Michael Gove and the Department for Education for not making their messages more compelling or with the teachers who aren’t reading them in greater numbers?

One way of helping to allocate responsibility is to see how the open rate for Department for Education messages compares with those from Ofsted. Not well is the answer, for another FoI request from me reveals that Ofsted newsletters get a much better response, with overall a 44% readership rate across 2012 compared to the 33% for the Department for Education.

As I said yesterday, could do better Mr. Gove.


Note: as with the Department for Education figures, I have calculated the overall open rate based on total number of emails sent in 2012 and total number opened, rather than by averaging the percentage open rate figures for different sized email campaigns. The Ofsted email newsletters go to a different group from the DoE’s messages, and in particular include some non-schools / non-teachers.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • David Allen 20th Feb '13 - 6:07pm

    A teacher who doesn’t bother to find out what Ofsted might be trying to talk about is a bit like a burglar who isn’t worried about the man in the blue hat who is walking towards him!

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Feb '13 - 7:37pm

    Quoting Michael Gove: ” The lack of ambition evident in those figures was reinforced for me recently when we launched an initiative – open to every state school in the country – to enable their students to visit a top university, see for themselves how welcoming and exciting such places could be – and tempt them to apply.
    Only 766 schools responded. Less than a quarter of the total number of secondary schools.
    How can we possibly make our society fairer and more just when so many children are denied the chance to glimpse a liberating future? ”

    To answer your ‘question’ Mark, headteachers are bombarded with material and initiatives from this Secretary of State – initiative fatigue is a real problem. Second, see the above extract from Gove’s ‘rant’about the virtues of the EBacc the day before he was forced to ditch the EBCs.

    This extract witnesses the problem – Gove is constantly lecturing to the educational establishment about how they are happy with failure, how they don’t raise pupils’ sights, how they do not want to ‘liberate’ children by allowing them to drop academic subjects etc… However, the fact is all children must take English, Maths and Science and only since 2004 have children been allowed to drop languages at 14 (due to Labour’s decision, not teachers). In the Humanities, most children take History, Geography or Religious Studies (which was becoming too popular, so Gove deliberately omitted it from the EBacc).

    In other words, he is talking out of his hat – he picks a few unusual schools in very disadvantaged areas, shows they don’t take precisely the combination of subjects he deems appropriate, and declares the state system is not rigorous enough.

    Gove is now being found out to be a narrow and elitist ideologue who is not fit for purpose – I don’t mince my words but he has alienated practically every one in education – and that’s no mean feat in itself.

  • Taken even in itself apart from Ofsted, it suggests DfE continues to lose its credibility and ability to lead across education in the UK. Maybe its time will be up when the coalition ends and there is another departmental reorganisation.

    I feel quite sorry when I hear about school governors, some of whom are parents who want more of a say, complaining about having to absorb so much useless paperwork from DfE. What it means is that even where the department is trying to help the group it says it cares about, it fails to almost largely due to the way it communications.

    On whether this is politics or polemics, you should factor in that Gove is Secretary of State but that there are other Ministers around him.

  • OFSTED – a useless and sprawling quango that is a home for clipboard-loving failed teachers.

    You would have thought that a government with a self-stated mission to have a ‘bonfire of the quangos’ would have put a bomb under OFSTED on the first day of entering office, but the truth of the matter is that OFSTED are a political tool for the eventual privatisation of the state education system.

    And as I said on the other topic, the fact that our party is giving Michael Gove free rein in further wrecking state education is one of the biggest disgraces of our Coalition Agreement.

  • If anyone thinks I’m being a bit harsh towards OFSTED, here’s two personal examples I wish to share:

    1. My daughter’s nursery was marked down on the basis that there wasn’t enough outdoor toys in the rear playground. The OFSTED inspector made this report even though it was raining and the outdoor toys had been stored

    2. My daughter isn’t very speedy at getting ready in the morning, and I talked to the teacher about the possibility of letting her make herself late so she could see the consequences for herself. The school weren’t happy about this proposal, as figures for lateness are required by OFSTED in making an overall school evaluation. In other words, OFSTED have decided that something which is actually the responsibility of parents is now the responsibility of schools.

    This ridiculous scope-creep and box-ticking culture is something that should be curtailed, not encouraged.

    Mark Pack – I admire your work generally, but you really should not be doing anything that can act as fuel to Michael Gove’s fire.

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Feb '13 - 1:53pm

    @ Mark Pack: I’m not really sure what the purpose of the article is – what does it actually prove – simply that a few more headteachers read emails from Ofsted than the DfE – big deal.

    These organisations send out so many ‘circulars’ one could spend the entire week dealing with them. The reality is that heads have many competing demands, the most important of whom are the pupils, the parents and the teachers – notwithstanding their governors.

    I do hope that Mark, you are not trying to signal to Michael Gove that he should begin a new round of ‘getting tough’ with headteachers over this matter – by introducing new centralised targets or more initiatives – that is certainly not what is required, especially from the Liberal Democrats.

  • Paul Holmes 21st Feb '13 - 4:08pm

    Mark, as you know for 22 years I was a teacher and -as a Head of Subject Department and then as Head of Sixth Form – subject to the endless rain of missives from London. First by snail mail and then via the wonders of email which has made the dispensation of mountains of drivel even easier! It seems to me that your two postings on this topic make a number of false assumptions:

    1. That such missives are indeed full of ‘really useful’ information and need to be read.
    2. That teachers opening half or less of such missives is a weakness rather than a rational use of time when having taught without break all day they want to get on to an evening of marking, preparation, writing UCAS references etc.

    As a teacher one coping strategy was to file much of this stuff in a pending tray (real or electronic) and if no one had sent a reminder by the end of term to dump it. As an MP (working even longer hours than a teacher but for much better pay and in less pressurised circumstances) I had a member of staff who would filter out the bulk of the junkmail for me.

    Interestingly, given your career in digital communication and campaigning, I made some interesting observations re e-campaigning during our recent PPC selection process. Three of our shortlisted candidates fought a strong campaign using all the now obligatory e media techniques too. I kept asking our members what emails etc they had received and what was repeatedly told “yes but I have not read them; yes but I have not clicked through to You Tube to view the campaign video; yes but I have not looked at Facebook/Website etc etc”

    It’s not just teachers who refuse to suffer the tyranny of email.

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