Ofsted have just released their revised guidance for inspections, it can be found here: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/news/revised-guidance-for-inspections-of-maintained-schools-and-academies
One of the areas that I am not happy about is the fact that inspections will:
- no longer record on evidence forms a grade on the quality of teaching for individual lesson observations;
So there it is, the end of being given an individual grade for your teaching after your lesson observation. The majoirty of the teaching world will probably be rejoicing about this and we'll inevitably see them posting their joy on GuardianTeach under 'How are teachers relaxing over the summer holidays?' but I won't be jumping over any moon.
Ofsted are still going to have to give an overall judgement on the quality of teaching in the school so they are still going to have to keep notes so they can collate various observations and make an informed decision. I think it would be naive to think that although they won't be writing information on 'evidence forms' they will still have to take jottings. If the overall quality of teaching in a school is still going to be decided through 'Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate' I can't believe that Ofsted are not going to keep track of in which category they think particular lessons fall into.
So you have to ask yourself the question, if Ofsted are going to keep track then why can't that be communicated to us?
The main argument comes from a progressive style of teaching. Do you want to be labelled as a particular grade or do you want feedback that highlights your strengths and weaknesses and allows you to reflect upon it and improve as a teacher? I'm sure you're leaping in the air pointing at the latter, I would say why can't we have both? I know I'm being judged by you Mr. Inspector and you know what, I know the grade criteria, I know I am good but not outstanding and I can take being told that like a grown-up. I don't want it wrapped in the gift-wrap of educational cliches and potential misinterpretations. I want a constructive conversation and that starts will the benchmark I work by, Ofsted work by, my Performance Related Pay works by. I don't have time for misinterpretation by all of those. I think a grade is a good starting point, no one is under any illusion what you are, you're not exchanging Morse Code winks to ask if you're a 1, 2 or 3 or heaven forbid a short wink, short wink, short wink, long wink. You want to trust that because they've seen hundreds of lessons, they are better at judging yours than yourself and although that may get a few cries of naivety, in my experience it is generally true.
It also filters down into the practice of the school. If Ofsted no longer give grades, then low and behold I'm sure your appraiser won't be giving them. Have some courage, I've taught lessons during observations when I did require improvement and the observer didn't bake me a plate of cookies, sit me down on a cushion and begin on passive-aggressive feedback, they told me straight that it wasn't good enough and that I needed to improve considerably. We are dealing with children, they are the most important element of our school and if I'm failing them I need to be told. I need a frank conversation about the areas that will have the biggest impact on their learning and I need to be told to get on and do it now. I don't want a few targets here and there so that by the end of my appraisal at the end of the year I've systematically failed a cohort of children, I want clear and unwavering guidance. Ofsted can give this, yes you hope they'll be impartial, you hope that if they do have a preferred teaching style it doesn't affect their judgement - but yes they are only human and they'll make mistakes (hopefully not during my observation) - but I trust that they have the interests of the children at heart and if they give me a 3 and give me 5 areas that will drastically help my children to learn then I am happy for it. No one is bigger than the learning that needs to take place, not my pride, not anything.
My school this year has trialed the no grade approach to feedback and the consensus is that it: wastes time while the observer tries to say it was good without saying the word good or any synonym of good, it degrades the teacher as a professional (can we take it? Apparently not) but most importantly, it impedes the constructive dialogue that is needed to improve standards. If you can't even say what grade it was, how are you going to confront deep-rooted issues in my teaching style, how are we going to have a productive conversation?
So I say, give it to us straight! I want you to tell me what I am and then we can talk about why. I can then trust you to give me purposeful criticism. Taking away grades sounds a lot like protecting the teachers feelings and that is fine unless it is detrimental to the dialogue that will drive improvement of education in our schools.
So when I sit opposite an Ofsted inspector I shall be asking - "Please Sir, ca