Ofsted and judging teaching quality. Do Teachers believe them?

I always spread the message around schools that Teachers need to do nothing extra to prepare for Ofsted and SLT should ask nothing extra of teachers. In my book about Ofsted preparation, ‘Taking Control‘, I’m very clear about this, saying that, on inspection, teachers (and TAs) should simply do the day job. preparing special lessons on the day before inspection should have no effect on your grade for the quality of teaching, learning and assessment. If an Ofsted HMI, inspector, or team is swayed by what they see on a one, or two day snapshot, they have made a poor decision. They see a maximum of two days of teaching in maybe 5 years. How can the teaching quality of a school be judged on around 1/500th of the teaching time therein? The answer is that it can’t and I would argue strongly that the quality of teaching in a school is already written in the stone of pupil outcomes.

Ofsted still need to inspect and visit lessons. A whole range of things can be seen firstly, whether pupils take pride in their work and secondly whether teachers are following school marking policy (the only two things inspectors are looking for in books), Also many other things can be seen on observations (I wish Ofsted would call them lesson visits instead!): progress can be seen, especially in early primary, perhaps less so in Y5/6 and secondary subjects, behaviour in class, relationships between pupils and between pupils and the teacher, the thought behind the teacher’s planning, the attitude of pupils to their school and to their teacher (talk to them), a sense of the quality of leadership and management around pedagogy and professional development in the co-observers; the list goes on and on. None of these can be seen in a desktop exercise, so Ofsted need to visit lessons.

What can’t be done is that the visitor can’t judge the quality of teaching on offer. That is too subjective and is very dependent on the baggage and preconceptions that the observer brings with them. Two separate observers of the same lesson may well not agree on teaching quality seen. A set of observers will have a range of different views. Fortunately, Ofsted don’t do this. Unfortunately some schools do. The criteria that SLT use to grade and judge teaching quality is bound to be subjective and at worst, they are a tick-list, contrived to reflect how SLT *want* teachers to teach.

What Ofsted do, however, is to judge the quality of teaching overall in the school. The handbook highlights the range of evidence sources that can be used (P43-49) and says: ‘Inspectors will use a considerable amount of first-hand evidence gained from observing pupils in lessons, talking to them about their work, scrutinising their work and assessing how well leaders are securing continual improvements in teaching. Direct observations in lessons will be supplemented by a range of other evidence to enable inspectors to evaluate the impact that teachers and support assistants have on pupils’ progress’. Ofsted don’t give a number grade to the quality of teaching, or to pupil outcomes in a lesson (thank goodness) but they are still looking at many other things and they are right to do so. To simply judge schools by a desktop exercise – a la the the methodology of Regional Schools Commissioners who regularly evaluate schools without inspecting them, would be wrong, IMO.

No grades are given, then but judgements are clearly being made and here, the confusion arises for teachers. What’s the difference between a judgement and a grade in the mind of the inspector? There are no criteria for saying, for instance, how good is direct instruction in a classroom, or how effective is group work, so how do inspectors (and SLT) manage to come to an overall judgement about this? Moreover, how do inspectors come to an overall judgement as to what would help a school to improve its quality of teaching and learning (putting aside assessment, which is a cobbled-in grade anyway). How do you aggregate all the support by TAs you’ve seen in a few snapshot lessons and say ‘this school needs to improve the support given by other adults in the classroom’? It plainly mad when it is put in those terms, but that is exactly what inspectors and HMI are expected to do.

The worry that teachers have is clearly evident in this Twitter poll. 1300+ respondents – all my PLN are in education and many of the voters will have come from there, but I know some won’t be and Twitter polls have clear limitations. Still, it gives an idea.

78%!! Despite Ofsted’s myth busters, teachers feel that these first hand observations are put together with other evidence in the handbook to establish the quality of teaching. I’ve done this many, many times, with inspection teams, sometimes having pointed conversations with inspectors around avoiding talk of how good (or not) individual lessons were and not in any way aggregating lesson observations. I had great sympathy with my inspectors here. We were being asked to observe in lesson after lesson, being told this was the main method of data collection, yet also told that the quality of teaching in the school was not any kind of average, or aggregation of (non-existent) lesson quality judgements. Much of it was, and I suspect, still is a farce. The quality of teaching and learning grade in older frameworks, then the teaching learning and assessment grade in the current framework, almost always matched the grade for pupil outcomes. No wonder.

It was possible to give a different grade, if new teachers had been recently introduced and pupils’ outcomes were improving, but were not yet, say, good enough to be ‘Good’, but these were ( and still are are) fairly uncommon. In the main, if pupil outcomes are ‘Good’, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment is good too. If pupil outcomes are RI, Q of TL&A is good. Same with G4 and G1 schools; the two grades commonly match and in many ways, so they should. Good teaching produces good outcomes.

And then this bombshell of a poll:

Stunningly, **74%** of around 600 teachers feel that their lessons, on inspection, are in some way graded. Only 16% of the respondents definitely don’t feel there is grading going on. Now I know they are not graded, having inspected through most of the current framework and having led most of those inspections. Ofsted also instruct inspectors not to grade and they say so very clearly in the handbook (P10)

  • Ofsted does not award a grade for the quality of teaching or outcomes in the individual lessons visited. It does not grade individual lessons. It does not expect schools to use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to grade teaching or individual lessons.

So why do teachers not believe this? The message is simply not getting through. Teachers believe that some kind of grading is happening and, unfortunately, SLT are continuing to grade lessons, perhaps as a result.

I’m stunned at this and I didn’t expect it. I thought the ‘judging’ in the first poll would include teachers feeling that some kind of assessment of teaching quality was happening when inspectors visited their room, but I’d assumed that grading wasn’t considered by teachers. I was hopelessly wrong. The majority of teachers believe that their lessons are being, in some way, graded on inspection. That is stunning.

After this, Ofsted *must* consider dropping any kind of attempt at grading the quality of teaching and learning on a one, or two-day inspection. It is clearly costing teachers in terms of extra work, as teachers believe their performance will affect the teaching and learning (and assessment) grade awarded to their school. OR Ofsted must do their own assessment of the impact of this grade. Ofsted need to respond to this. Hubris, or a pretence that this poll never happened, are not the best responses. Teachers will be your judge.

Ofsted have said that they wish to reduce the workload of teachers. If that is not just words, abandon the grading of teaching and learning on inspection. You cannot do it in a way that means that teachers don’t do more work in preparation. Ofsted’s work around myth busting has not worked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a sense of strengths and weaknesses in teaching – though

 

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