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    


03/08/2014 15:09

I think you've missed the point entirely.
You may be right that your lesson observation that needed to be graded as RI was what was needed for you to raise your game, but why? Were you a teacher in need of improvement across the board? In which case, why did it need that observation grading to spur some action? Why wouldn't that have been picked up anyway? And more to the point, what of the teachers who do genuinely need to raise their game, but who 'get lucky' on the day and scrap a Good. Do we then leave them until they've "systematically failed a cohort of children".
The grading doesn't sort the wheat from the chaff, it merely scores what was seen on the day. I know of my own teaching that lessons I teach vary from Outstanding to Inadequate. I suspect so does most peoples. What matters is whether the overall picture is closer to one end or the other - and a single grade tells you nothing about that.

03/08/2014 16:57

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog Michael.

Perhaps I didn't construct my post well enough but I like the idea of it being the starting point for dialogue. By no means should the grading be the end. I want to eradicate confusion and misinterpretations which I know occur because of feedback.

I think it is important we all sing from the same hymn sheet because of the way appraisals work at the moment. Using a benchmark for observations lessens the chance the goal posts will move. When people's pay rises are on the line, they want to know the standard that is expected. There is such a difference from school to school (because the PRP is dependent on LA or HT's criteria) people want a solid starting point.

I understand that you're saying if the criteria is given and a teacher works by that and 'gets lucky' on the day then that is not beneficial for the children or the school. In coming to the decision that you do during an observation you do the standard things - look at previous and future planning, work in the children's books. What I have found in my experience is that the best way of seeing through the 'fluke on the day' is talking to the children and getting a picture of their overall learning in that year, week or lesson. You can almost always see through a lesson that has been put together and a teacher that has 'got lucky'. In putting all of these elements together during an observation with experience you can gain a good understand of prior, current and future learning that will take place.

I am very interested in your point of view though if you have the time I'd like to know for my own development, when assessing someone who has 'got lucky' how do you personally 'sort the wheat from the chaff'?

03/08/2014 17:30

I think you've hit the nail on the head here.

"In coming to the decision that you do during an observation you do the standard things - look at previous and future planning, work in the children's books. What I have found in my experience is that the best way of seeing through the 'fluke on the day' is talking to the children and getting a picture of their overall learning in that year, week or lesson."

Ofsted simply can't do that for every teacher. It's impossible in the short time they have. So it's madness for Ofsted to imagine that they can judge in that way.
Of course, a school can manage its teachers in such a way as to be able to reach a more reasoned judgement, but then they also have the time to explore and discuss that; the reduction of the whole process to a number seems pointless.

You're right than PRP is an issue, but we ought to consider the ways in which that could work. If the whole thing hangs on a small number of one-off observations, then the stakes are high for those and low for the rest of the year. If, however, schools take a more reasoned view over the whole year then I don't see why it shouldn't be possible to have an agreed set of criteria - even partly based on Ofsted's if that's how Heads work - that sets out what is considered to be good quality teaching over time. Not in one-off observations, but as part of a long cycle.

As regards your comments to Matt, I think it would be naive to presume that Ofsted graded criteria offer any security about the quality of the observer. We have seen that even Ofsted can't get that to be consistent, let alone schools. That's, unfortunately, a wholly separate problem with the system.

03/08/2014 15:44

Why is it necessary to be given a 3 and then 5 areas to improve on? Why not just be given the 5 areas to improve on? If anything, being given a 'grade' has no value without the accompanying feedback which will now have more of a focus.

The removal of grading will make it so all teachers need to improve, not just teachers who are not Outstanding.

03/08/2014 17:24

Thank you Matt for the response.

From my experience in outstanding schools it isn't the case that because they receive outstanding feedback they don't feel the need to improve. I think it depends on the ethos of the school and the criteria for improvement they set themselves.

I agree with you that there will now be a focus on the feedback instead of the 'grade' but this will only be as productive as the observer themselves and leaves a wider scope for interpretation. Wider interpretation is certainly not a bad thing but depending on the practitioners, teachers and schools involved this does mean that it could be susceptible to misinterpretation. For the teachers who have appraisals very dependent upon observations I feel this could potentially be a problem.

Do you think a no grade policy provides less or more security for a teachers observation?

03/08/2014 20:59

To be honest I'm unsure what you mean by the question. I think Michael had raised an important point in identifying that these grades we are talking about are allotted by an inspector who will have their own opinions on teaching and learning.

Now, as I'm sure you'll have noticed, the Ofsted Handbook now states that not one teaching style will be preferred over another. In other words, Ofsted will be looking at the teaching in front of them, not looking for certain criteria to be met. This will lead to greater scrutiny on children's progress, work and responses rather than the one off lesson they see on the day.

I think we'd all celebrate the fact that teachers are being given more room to teach to a style that suits them and not one prescribed by Ofsted (as long as progress is being made). This does mean, however, that grading individual lessons will be problematic as there are not specific things being looked for.

I think (if this answers the question) this will provide greater security for (consistent) teachers because it will assess what they have done the whole school year with the children and not focus on what happens in the 20 or so mins they observe.

04/08/2014 09:26

An interesting post and I can certainly see where you are coming from in terms of a teacher wanting to know where there are strengths in their teaching and what they need to improve upon, but individual lesson judgements do not have any value when they are made and/or viewed in isolation. Observing lessons provide a snapshot and they can highlight lots of strengths and areas to develop (which any decent observer should go through during feedback and any decent teacher should listen to). But to make a judgement on the effectiveness of a teacher's teaching, this can only be made in conjunction with other evidence and over time.
This doesn't prevent me from saying whether the lesson was good or not but I won't, and you shouldn't, rely on that lesson judgement for everything.
I do talk 'judgements' when observing but within a context: 'That was a good lesson and if you teach like that consistently we'll see some great impact on the pupil achievement-and based on the work in books and your data I feel secure in saying that you do' or 'That lesson wasn't good and here's why...but based on your data, work scrutiny, previous observations I would say that the lesson wasn't typical.' or 'That lesson was great, but all other evidence suggests that your teaching isn't having an impact which concerns me. Let's do some more work together to find out why.'
These conversations and the use of a variety of information gives a far more astute judgement of your teaching and hopefully gives you clearer picture of the quality of your teaching than three lesson judgements a year. (Somewhere I've written a fascinating and highly entertaining blog on this subject)
Good and passionate post, look forward to reading more in the future. Bye.

04/08/2014 11:29

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond.

I do agree with you that overall judgements should be completely like that. That is the way I give judgements and reading your blog has entertained and educated me so thank you. I do hope under the new guidelines Ofsted will do the same.

I just don't want a scenario where they have 'guidelines' in their head in all but name and we are just kept in the dark. I don't want them to have any information that would be beneficial to us.

I wish all Ofsted judgements to be the way you described and only time will tell.


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