On why being officially ‘Outstanding’ isn’t all that matters

We all use organisations and services that we feel confident are good, don’t we? We use them most days, we know them well, they are part of our day to day routine. We feel happy with the service, and the people who work there seem to do a good job. The whole organisation seems to work pretty well and that is a nice, comforting feeling for everyone.

But these days, it isn’t enough just to know that something is good – you need to have someone official to tell you that yes, this organisation that you have always been happy with is, officially, Good.

And sometimes it’s not enough to be officially Good either. Because there is always something better than Good. There is always Outstanding. And if officially you’re only  Good, won’t people be wondering why you’re not Outstanding?

And of course being Outstanding is; well, it’s outstanding. And there are some truly outstanding organisations out there. But the problem with aiming for Outstanding, is that sometimes……..well sometimes it just results in the organisation actually being less ‘Good‘ than it was before. Because the focus is on demonstrating how Outstanding you are, rather than on doing what you’re there to do in the first place. So there are new processes and initiatives, new ways of recording information; more reports to write, more things to prove, more monitoring, more boxes to tick, and more data to collect. More and more things that end up taking people away from doing their actual jobs.

So in the process of trying to demonstrate that they’re better than Good, many organisations lose those very things that made people think of them as actually being good in the first place.

And therein lies my problem with Ofsted, and our collective obsession with it.

Because if being recognised as officially Outstanding can end up meaning that, in real terms, you’re not actually as Good as you were before, well then I’ll happily stick with Good thank you very much.

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