Ofsted have recently published a number of documents aimed at clarifying the role grades play in any lesson observations conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectors during an Ofsted Inspection.
The latest release comes from Mike Cladingbowl, National Director for Schools and directly addresses the growing concern about the mixed messages inspectors appear to be carrying into the inspections they conduct.
We would begin by highlighting the fact that this guidance relates specifically to what inspectors have been told they should and should not do during an inspection and does not remove any of the requirement on schools to be making judgements on and gathering robust evidence of the quality of teaching within the school on a regular basis.
Inspectors should not grade individual lessons
The document outlines the current form (in use since 2009) and compares it with the one used prior to 2009. Where that original form had a box for grading each lesson individually the new one simply contains a section asking for a grade of the ‘Quality of Teaching’ overall. The document states quite clearly that this box should not be used for grading an individual teacher, but instead for grading a whole range of evidence gathered from a variety of sources.
Schools have the opportunity to contribute to the ‘jigsaw’
Mr Cladingbowl outlines the importance of lesson observation as a jigsaw piece in a much bigger puzzle that, importantly for schools, includes their own observations and self-evaluation data. Other sources inspectors should be using to inform their judgement include joint visits to the classroom, evidence of the improvement in teaching, the quality of work in books, teachers’ marking and discussions with pupils and staff.
When visiting a lesson, inspectors are specifically told not to grade an aspect such as ‘teaching’ without considering the rest of the evidence they could be gathering, such as the behaviour of students and how they are managed, subject knowledge, the standard of work in books and the marking of that work. Having gathered these various sources together the inspector will be in a much better place to be making secure judgements about what teaching is like for students and the impact it has on their learning over time.
A school’s own evidence base is important
Having gathered the various sources of evidence together, in making a judgement an inspector should avoid simply aggregating the grades awarded when they are evaluating teaching across the school. Ofsted’s guidance to their inspectors specifically states that they need to be including the school’s own view of teaching across the school along with any other performance data they have to hand. Again, this emphasises the need for a school’s evidence base to be robust and up-to-date when inspectors visit.
The document ends by summarising the thoughts of Mr Cladingbowl (and therefore, Ofsted) including the following:
- Inspectors should not give an overall grade for the lesson nor should teachers expect one.
- If asked, inspectors will provide feedback to individuals on what they have observed and the evidence they have gathered about teaching.
- The grade for the evidence they have gathered about teaching can be shared with teachers.
- This feedback does not constitute a view about whether a teacher is a ‘good’ teacher and inspectors must ensure the teacher understands that.
- Mr Cladingbowl acknowledges that it can be difficult for teachers to see the difference between a grade for teaching and a grade for them as a teacher, and goes on to say that he feels Ofsted need to do more here to distinguish between the two.
- Evidence gathered about individual teachers by an inspector should NEVER be used by the school for performance management purposes.
- Inspection is about evaluating the quality of education provided by the school, by considering a range of evidence and not about evaluating, individually or collectively, the performance of teachers through short lesson observations.
- Inspectors need to know what the quality of teaching is like across a whole school and how the teachers are supported – this places a requirement on the school to prove what support is being given to teachers as well as evidence the impact that support has had.
The document finishes with a note to say that Ofsted are willing to consider removing the numerical ‘quality of teaching’ grade from the form altogether, allowing inspectors to gather their evidence before discussing it all at the end of an inspection where they then decide on a single overall teaching judgement for the school in question.
As mentioned above, we believe that this release only emphasises the responsibility placed on a school to be gathering evidence of teaching and learning from a range of sources, with the onus on them to show the support they have provided as a result of this process, giving evidence as to how that support has affected the quality of teaching and learning within the school.
If you want to talk to us about anything mentioned in the post please feel free to contact us on 0844 963 2242 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read about how our Lessons Learned system will give you the tools you need to store and analyse all of the evidence Ofsted inspectors might require by collating observations, learning walks, planning scrutiny, marking scrutiny, pupil voice and more in one place.