This week’s blog post is from a guest author – Joan Ashley. Joan has 28 years of experience in mathematics education, both as a teacher and an ITT tutor. In this article Joan takes a look at some of the myths and realities surrounding one of the less welcome events in the teacher’s calendar – the Ofsted Inspection…
Inspections: then and now
There have always been school inspectors. When I started teaching they were local authority employees; each had a specialism and geographical patch. In the days of “probationary teachers”, they were gatekeepers to the profession, determining who was allowed to enter. They knew the schools on their patch well and were able to assist head teachers by sharing the good practice they had observed on their travels. They acted as informed critical friends with whom educational challenges could be discussed and resolved.
Fast forward forty years and what have we now? We have a very different model of inspection, carried out by Ofsted. Complete strangers are parachuted into schools for a few days to make a judgement on the quality of the education it offers. Inspectors spend a lot of time looking at “the data” and award the school a mark out of four. Having got to know the school quite well, and identified strengths and weaknesses, they then leave.
Wouldn’t it be so much more sensible if they were able to stay, to use their knowledge and expertise to help the school to improve?
A bad press?
I’ve taken part in Ofsted inspections as a school chair of governors, a teacher and a parent, in most sectors of education from primary to HE. I don’t particularly like being scrutinised and judged but I take the view that if I am doing my job properly I have nothing to fear, and if I’m not I need to know about it.
In an ideal world, inspections wouldn’t be necessary because schools would be providing an optimum service for all their learners. Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal work, but in a world inhabited by real people, some of whom “could do better”.
It seems that there is a need for some form of external quality assurance, currently Ofsted. This organisation gets a bad press because it is believed to add to the workload in schools, but closer examination shows that this need not be so.
Let’s debunk three of the myths surrounding inspections. Quotes below are taken from the Further education and skills inspection handbook and Ofsted inspections – clarification for schools (the emphasis is my own).
Myth 1 – Inspectors expect to see detailed written lesson plans.
- “Teaching staff should plan their lessons as usual. Ofsted does not specify how written lesson plans should be set out or the amount of detail they should contain.”
- “Ofsted does not require schools to provide individual lesson plans to inspectors. Equally, Ofsted does not require schools to provide previous lesson plans.”
- “Ofsted does not specify how planning should be set out, the length of time it should take or the amount of detail it should contain. Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.”
Myth 2 – I need to teach an Ofsted style lesson.
- “Ofsted has no preferred teaching style. Inspectors judge the quality of teaching by its impact on learning. Providers are not expected to use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to evaluate teaching or individual lessons, or to undertake a specified amount of lesson observations.”
Myth 3 – All learner work should be teacher marked and commented on.
- “Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.”
An assessment or inspection of any kind can be a stressful occasion (unless you’re the type that enjoys the limelight of course!).
However, as we can see from the excerpts above, a visit from Ofsted should make no difference to your workload. In the words of one senior inspector, Ofsted are looking for “consistent use of successful teaching strategies based on sound educational principles”.
Surely no one could disagree with that?
Photo credit: Helloquence