h1

What OFSTED Say They Want

October 13, 2012

A lot of teachers have been told that OFSTED will require them to stop teaching their classes and, instead, make children sit in groups knitting their own yoghurts, pausing only to be lectured on the minutiae of how to distinguish a level 5c from a level 4a. The best antidote to this is to hear what Michael Wilshaw, the head of OFSTED, actually said to the RSA when asked to describe a good teacher.

Here is a transcript of his comments:

Perhaps I can start by mentioning two teachers to you that I remember from Mossbourne, my previous school. There are many good teachers there. I just want to mention two of them as a way of leading into this debate. One is an English teacher. She’s still teaching there. She’s in her  late twenties. She’s an absolutely outstanding Advanced Skills Teacher  and I remember observing lots of her lessons but I’ll mention just one of them. One of them was a lesson on the Merchant of Venice and she was teaching incredibly well. She had part of the class reciting Portia’s speech; you know, the quality of mercy. They were all doing that; this is a middle ability class. She had the Al Pacino film on the touchscreen behind her. She had a couple of youngsters dressed in Tudor garb and it was just one of those brilliant lessons that you see and it was full of energy; it was full of pace and she was moving around between the different groups doing different things.

That was one teacher; one lesson. The second lesson, or the second teacher I remember, was somebody in his late fifties. He was the head of maths. He was a very traditional teacher. He taught in a pretty didactic way, but the kids loved him across the ability range. He knew how to teach maths. You know what a great maths teacher does?  Builds block by block to ensure that youngsters don’t move on until they understand the ground rules. He would spend many, many hours in the evening every night preparing powerpoints for himself and for the staff in his department and he would disseminate good practice, in terms of how to use powerpoints, to other people in his department and beyond his department to other schools in Hackney and beyond. And he produced absolutely fantastic results although some people would say he was a very didactic teacher. So these two people were very different teachers but incredibly successful and the reason why they were successful was because they developed a style of teaching with which they were comfortable, not complacent, but with which they were comfortable and which they knew worked. It worked because children enjoyed their lessons; were engaged; were focused; learnt a great deal and made real progress.

For me a good lesson is about what works. A good lesson is about what works. So this is a plea, this evening, for pragmatism not ideology in the way we judge the quality of teaching. I am reminded about Blair’s words in relation to that sterile debate on the academy programme and structural reform. He said: “what works is what’s good”.  What works is what’s good and I have the same view in terms of teaching. We, and in that word “we” I include OFSTED, should be wary of trying to prescribe a particular style of teaching, whether it be a three part lesson; an insistence that there should be a balance between teacher led activities and independent learning, or that the lesson should start with aims and objectives with a plenary at the end and so on and so forth. We should be wary of too much prescription. In my experience a formulaic approach pushed out by a school or rigidly prescribed in an inspection evaluation schedule traps too many teachers into a stultifying and stifling mould which doesn’t demand that they use their imagination, initiative and common sense. Too much direction is as bad as too little. Both teachers I’ve mentioned to you understood this but also understood that there were other things they had to do.

Firstly, planning was everything for them. They planned their lessons so that they knew what they were going to do; knew what resources they were going to deploy, and knew roughly how long each activity would take. But they also understood that planning shouldn’t be too detailed. It was a framework to give them the necessary flexibility to adapt to a different way of teaching at key moments in the lesson when the mood of the class, as it inevitably does, changes. They recognised that the worst lessons are those where the teacher ploughs through the lesson plan irrespective of how well or badly the lesson is going. OFSTED won’t necessarily require a lesson plan when inspectors observe, but they will want to see a planned lesson and there is a difference.

Secondly, these two people I’ve mentioned were incredibly reflective teachers who would adapt their lesson plan when things didn’t go well; so at the end of the lesson, or the end of the day, they’d go back to the lesson plan and change it. Because they were reflective people, they knew that they didn’t have the answers to everything and were prepared to learn from others although they were acknowledged by the school to be outstanding teachers. This meant that they talked a lot about their teaching to others, were happy to go into other teachers’ classrooms and were only too willing for other teachers to go into their classrooms. They acknowledged that, no matter how experienced they were, teaching was a learning experience.

Thirdly, they were very perceptive people who understood the dynamics of the classroom. They quickly noticed when the pace of the lesson had dropped and when students had become disengaged and children’s attention has started to slacken. They were quick to notice when the classroom hubbub had reached an unacceptable level and Jack the lad was messing about at the back of the room. At the same time, they were quick to spot when a youngster found it difficult to understand the work and needed more help. In other words, they were highly interventionist teachers and knew how to dictate the pace of the lesson.

Fourthly, they understood the maxim that nothing is taught unless it’s learned. They measured their success, therefore, on whether children were learning and making progress and because they were hugely successful teachers this meant rapid progress. Whenever I observed them teach, they would stop the class at regular intervals and say “I just want to check that you’ve learnt this”. They were all great at picking out the inattentive child to ensure that he or she understood the importance of keeping up.

Finally, they were incredibly resilient people who withstood the slings and arrows and the occasional paper dart unflinchingly. They never let failure get the better of them; they learnt from it and came back stronger, tougher and better teachers. They were all in their different ways fierce characters; fierce, not in a repressive or bullying way, but tough on standards. They weren’t authoritarians but they were authoritative. In other words they made sure youngsters knew who was in charge and who was setting the boundaries for acceptable behaviour. Both took a lead in professionally developing others and supported the school’s training programme. Both of them would have said that the leadership of teaching was the most important quality in headship and, of course, I endorse that view. Headship is about leading teaching first and foremost. A good head understands this and is, therefore, more outside his or her office than inside, patrolling the corridor, entering classrooms and engaging teachers and children throughout the school day. Good management is always secondary to good leadership of teaching. I knew both of these teachers well because I did that as a head.

If you are going to be successful as a teacher, head of department or headteacher, you’ve got to be a high profile, highly visible person who has the physical and emotional energy to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Never believe that leadership of teaching can be done by remote control. OFSTED needs to endorse the school and the head who drives improvement in teaching. It is good that the new framework emphasises teaching more than anything else and that there is a clear correlation between the judgements on teaching and those on the overall effectiveness of the school. It is good that the inspectors will be asking questions about the robustness of performance management in relation to the quality of teaching and the salary levels of staff. It’s good that unannounced inspections will mean that inspectors see lessons as they normally are and – let me make this clear – if we see an extended piece of writing or reading, or the structured reinforcement of mathematical formula, where the children are engaged and learning then that’s fine. Let me also emphasise we do not want to see teaching simply designed to impress inspectors. We don’t want to see lessons which are more about classroom entertainment and promoting the personality of the teacher than embedding children’s learning in a meaningful way. So let that message be proclaimed from the rooftops. OFSTED will judge the quality of teaching in relation to the quality of learning and whether children and young people across the age and ability range are making the progress they should be from the starting points. There will be no OFSTED template which compels teachers to do things they wouldn’t normally do. We need to celebrate diversity, ingenuity and imagination in the way that we teach. Surely this is common sense. When every child is different; every class is different, and every year group is different. One size rarely fits all. Surely this adage must apply to teaching as it does to most things in life.

An edited version can be viewed below.

Some of this is stuff teachers, labouring to fit their lessons to a particular structure or ideology imposed by their schools because OFSTED supposedly require it, will be delighted to hear. Just in case you think that Sir Michael is misrepresenting the official position of his organisation in calling for tolerance of different teaching styles, it is worth being aware of the following snippets from the latest OFSTED handbook:

Lesson observations

25. The key objective of lesson observations is to evaluate the quality of teaching and its contribution to learning, particularly in the core subjects. Inspectors will not look for a preferred methodology but must identify ways in which teaching and learning can be improved…

…Quality of teaching in the school…

…111. Inspectors must not expect teaching staff to teach in any specific way or follow a prescribed methodology…

…Not all aspects of learning, for example pupils’ engagement, interest, concentration, determination, resilience and independence, will be seen in a single observation.

About these ads

45 comments

  1. While it was entertaining to watch a teacher roll out a powerpoint quiz during an observed lesson having never seen them touch a computer previously, I did think it was a great shame that the observer was missing out on the opportunity to see often the best teachers share a great lesson. Importantly, the standard of their ‘traditional’ teaching was consistently high unlike the superb lessons that were usually saved for special OFSTED occasions by other teachers.

    Sadly I think that not a great deal would change regardless of Michael Wilshaw’s clarification – because there is now a deep-rooted belief that more didactic styles as he refers to them, are ineffective; and a teacher who follows them is often criticised for doing so. My classmates and I knew who we learnt more from, not that endorsement for a teacher who didn’t try to turn everything into a game was ever going to be revealed by a group of teenagers!


  2. This is reassuring to read. As a training teacher (GTP) I was fortunate to have attended an inset yesterday on “Outstanding Teaching” delivered by a very charismatic member of the Chris Quigley team. His message aligned very closely to that of Wilshaw’s in that sticking to enforced or adopted lesson delivery systems will invariably impact negatively on pupil progress.

    The key, it would appear, lies in having a sound awareness and understanding of the essential “skills, knowledge and /or understanding” required for the subject/topic; taken from the National Curriculum (the dusty possibly barnacled copy in the corner). This then feeds the differentiated standards / success criteria that will help the children see how they can get there.

    As Wilshaw suggest, the successful teacher does all the hard work before the lesson. This then frees them up to deliver the lesson how they will and have time to assess accurately either on the spot or in their marking with a clear understanding of where the pupils sit within the standards. Clear simple and informed focus that can go whizz bang pop if appropriate to the conditions. (I think that makes sense…)


  3. At last a return to sanity. My HT must have wept when she read the above – everything she has done since arriving has been the opposite of Wilshere’s view.


  4. i would say I am quietly encouraged by these words. We shall see…


  5. Thank you for this post!

    Hopefully it will help to rebuild the professionalism of many teachers whose confidence has been gradually eroded and who have been convinced that their ability to teach is only as good as the latest “every lesson must have” list.

    Good teachers, I hesitate to say outstanding, for by definition not everyone can be (take note Nick Gibb.) understand learning, think carefully about what they’re trying to teach and enjoy – yes, enjoy devising new and engaging ways of facilitating learning.

    Let’s hope that this message is allowed to get through, and teachers regain the respect and professional pride that they deserve, and enjoy the creative process and rewards of teaching.


  6. [...] things from Ofsted A summary of what ofsted say they want from Scenes From The [...]


  7. Reblogged this on @ TeacherToolkit and commented:
    A very clear post by @OldAndrewUK, simply reminding us all, that all good teachers, should simply carry on with what we do best in the classroom.


  8. I’m reminded here of your earlier post when you mention management failure. The issue here is not about teachers or about Ofsted, it’s about management panicking and miscommunicating what Ofsted say.

    The link that Ofsted has made between the effectiveness of performance management and leadership and management has got school leaders in a spin – some will respond positively, but others will pass their panic on to their teaching staff and just make everything worse.


  9. Knitting yogurts….I love that idea! Thanks for making me smile


  10. Reblogged this on HCUK.


  11. I am heartened to read this, this is what ofsted should be doing in regards to observing teaching. However in reality I fear this is not what is happening. Teachers are so worried about being graded as requiring improvement that they do what the management tell them to do. That in many cases is not teach how you would normally! Eg a recent consultation by an ofsted inspector at our school had said we have to show progress every 20 mins, embed literacy in every lesson, still have 3 part lesson where you do the plenary no matter what! Amongst other things….. The message above is not reaching the Inspectors on the ground or the school management


    • A lot of schools are unaware of developments. As well as the comments about about ” if we see an extended piece of writing or reading, or the structured reinforcement of mathematical formula” we can also discount the “progress every 20 minutes” myth because of their recent report on English teaching which said:

      “Inspectors believe that the effectiveness of learning in this and many similar lessons was limited by some common misconceptions about what constitutes good teaching and learning. These include the following.

      Pace. There seems to be a belief that the faster the lesson, the better the learning. While pace is important – a slow lesson is likely to lose pupils‟ concentration – teachers too often concentrate on the pace of their planned activities rather than the pace of learning. For example, a teacher told an inspector that they had been advised that a starter activity should never last longer than 10 minutes. While this may be a sensible starting point for discussion, the inspector‟s view was that a starter activity, like any other activity, needs to last only as long as is needed to ensure effective learning.

      The number of activities. As implied above, some teachers appear to believe that the more activities they can cram into the lesson, the more effective it will be. This is often counterproductive, as activities are changed so often that pupils do not complete tasks and learning is not consolidated or extended…

      … A constant criticism from inspectors was that pupils rarely had extended periods to read, write or discuss issues in class. Indeed, inspectors observed lessons where pupils were asked to self- or peer-assess work before they had been able to complete more than a sentence or two. No doubt, teachers feel that they need to be actively engaged when they are being observed. However, this shows a degree of misunderstanding as inspectors‟ priority is above all to evaluate the quality of pupils‟ learning in lessons.

      Constant review of learning. As noted above, in lessons observed, significant periods of time were spent by teachers on getting pupils to articulate their learning, even where this limited their time to complete activities and thereby interrupted their learning! Pupils need time to complete something before they can valuably discuss and evaluate it. To invite self- or peer-evaluation before pupils have had time to engage fully with learning is counter-productive although the principle of self- or peer-assessment remains important.”


  12. LOL. How dim are you lot? He’s like the man leading the jews into the showers: “Look, I’m walking in first, it’s ok, it really is”. And you lap it up. Yeah, maybe Ofsted are about to change. Durrr! If you want to know what he thinks, look at what the institution he heads actually does. He is destroying education.


  13. That quote by OA at 11.09 is wonderful. Maybe the scales have finally fallen from their eyes and we are on a road to Damascus.

    I swear some of those quotes are almost identical to the advice I have been giving younger teachers for many years.

    I dunno, maybe I am about to inhale a dose of toxic chamber gas but so far I am encouraged like no other time in my career:

    1. OFSTED are not insisting on formula for all teachers lessons
    2. The removal of the examination cartel (endless resits at the taxpayers expense)
    3. The removal of competing exam boards thus reducing textbook scams and grade inflation.
    4. the reinstitution of teacher rights to discipline students (same day detentions and right to confiscate, search and use of reasonable force).

    OK, I know there are still injustices like that guy losing his job for restraining that 16yo who threw milkshake in his face but on the whole, common sense is being to make an appearance.

    Why are all so used to carping- so when good happens lets at least give praise where its due, till we have evidence to the contrary.


  14. Nice one Andrew. I just wanted to echo what other people have said in the comments which is that this doesn’t seem to be the attitude of the inspectors and the senior managers out in the field. I’m sure reminding any of those people that this is what Ofsted really think will only result in a shoeing.

    Anyway, this has really changed how I fundamentally view the problems in education… I’m more likely to accept it’s not the system that’s to blame now, but bullies in the schools themselves getting away with it.


  15. Have you a link to the milkshake incident?
    We’ve just been given the individual subject reviews from Ofsted as to what is outstanding/good etc, there’s very litle difference between outstanding and good, for History, by the way:
    Outstanding-

    Pupils have excellent knowledge and understanding both of people, events, and contexts from a range of historical periods, and of historical concepts and processes. They are able to think critically about history and communicate ideas very confidently in styles appropriate to a range of audiences. They consistently support, evaluate and challenge their own and others’ views using detailed, appropriate and accurate historical evidence derived from a range of sources. Pupils are able to think, reflect, debate, discuss and evaluate the past formulating and refining their own questions and lines of enquiry. Pupils are passionate about history and engage enthusiastically in their learning, developing a sense of curiosity about the past and their understanding of how and why people interpret the past in different ways. They are respectful of historical evidence and make robust and critical use of it to support their explanations and judgements. They readily embrace challenging activities, including opportunities to undertake high quality research across a range of history topics.

    Good-
    Pupils have good knowledge and understanding both of people, events, and contexts from a range of historical periods, and of historical concepts and processes. They are able to think critically about history and communicate ideas confidently in styles appropriate to a range of audiences. They regularly support, evaluate and challenge their own and others’ views using detailed, appropriate and accurate historical evidence derived from a range of sources. Pupils are able to think, reflect, debate, discuss and evaluate the past formulating and refining their own questions and lines of enquiry. Pupils enjoy history and the large majority engage enthusiastically in their learning, developing a sense of curiosity about the past and their understanding of how and why people interpret the past in different ways. They are respectful of historical evidence and make robust and critical use of it to support their explanations and judgements. They embrace challenging activities, including opportunities to undertake good quality research across a growing range of history topics.


  16. Those subject reviews seem to be describing the ability of the pupils more than the quality of teaching.


  17. [...] are making the progress they should be from the starting points” (from @oldandrewuk’s What OFSTED Say They Want) . Unfortunately, the impact of OFSTED on schools and teachers often has the opposite effect, the [...]


  18. [...] still on the subject of reading, I enjoyed Andrew Old’s post on ‘What Ofsted Say They Want’. Just what is good teaching all about? This is so [...]


  19. [...] my school, I can readily identify with that feeling at the moment!  I was reassured, therefore, to read this blog post recently which reports the answer Michael Wilshaw, the Head of OFSTED, gave when asked to describe [...]


    • Andrew, how have the Ofsted criteria changed, and would you improve the Ofsted criteria?


      • sorry, that should be: *and how would you improve the Ofsted criteria?


  20. Fascinating read, I have a new found respect for Wilshaw. Maybe he should have a word with the inspector at the other end of this story…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/nov/10/ofsted-inspector-notice-improve-secret-teacher

    I wish all headteachers could read this, and keep it pinned to the wall when the big O comes knocking.


  21. [...] most popular blogpost ever (in terms of hits) wasn’t really written by me. Entitled “What OFSTED say they want” it was a transcript of a speech made by the chief inspector Sir Michael [...]


  22. [...] by his speech at the London Festival of Education in October 2012, after which Andrew wrote up what Ofsted say they want. Sir Michael got asked this [...]


  23. It would be useful for him to pass this down to his inspectors as my experience of inspection last year indicated expectations which were very prescriptive. He says that a lesson plan is not required, just a planned lesson…. In my OfSTEDed lesson had a lesson plan which included a list of outcomes which expected pupils working at each stated level to be working at, I also attached a pupil list with the working at levels. The inspector said I should have taken the names of the list and had them in the plan itself ie Level 6 pupils (Tom, Dick, Harry) will be able to… seemed a little over the top to me and I’m sure he wouldn’t have been happy if there was no lesson plan at all! I was happy with the grade I got and the rest of the feedback but it certainly didn’t go along with Mr Wilshaw’s views.


  24. As a governor, my experience of this is that inspectors sometimes grade observed lessons as “requires improvement” for very subjective reasons, often referencing directly the approach used or simply because of disagreeing with the direction the particular teacher took the lesson in – i.e. flying completely in the face of Wilshaw’s comments above. The message is clear – you can teach any way you want, so long as it’s our way – and of course “our way” varies depending on the inspector you get.

    I think one of the biggest issues with the inspection system is the failure to acknowledge just how subjective it is. In fact, it seems quite the converse – that remark “I’m sure reminding any of those people that this is what Ofsted really think will only result in a shoeing.” rings very true indeed. Interesting how many of the inspectors, who I believe are more often than not former headteachers themselves, and therefore subject to the level of scrutiny inherent in an Ofsted inspection, suddenly take on an air of unchallengeable infallibility when they join Ofsted.


  25. [...] Then there came Wilshaw’s speech. [...]


  26. [...] Michael Wilshaw’s speech – via @oldandrew teachingbattleground.wordpress.com [...]


  27. [...] with the message of twenty minute progress performances. @oldandrewuk, once again, shared this speech from Wilshaw that makes many salient points all teachers and school leaders would know to help them [...]


  28. […] the tide seems to be turning. Michael Gove praised block by block maths teaching. ARK’s maths mastery pilot is the envy of many a maths teacher I speak to […]


  29. I am sick to death of all this! Teachers come in many shapes and sizes and have different styles of teaching! Of course some are more effective than others but all will have strengths and weaknesses. A good teacher always strives to be a better teacher and is keen to find ways of making lessons more interesting blah blah . We know what progress means and it doesn’t come in 20 minute slots! How absolutely ridiculous that anyone can drum up something so utterly absurd!


  30. […] It’s now clear to me that if we want to stop the predations of snake oil salesmen and Ofsted whisperers we must reclaim our expertise. We must boldly and confidently state that no one knows our students in our classrooms better than we do. We need to be able to counter any accusations that we talked too much or that our students were insufficiently independent by explaining that here is where they will be independent and in order for that to happen I need to actually teach them here. And if anyone ever feedbacks back on a lesson observation by saying “I wouldn’t have done it like that. I’d have done ….” we need to find a polite but assertive way to ask them to explain precisely how and why their views differ from Ofsted’s supremo, Sir Michael Wilshaw’s. […]


  31. […] if you get observed by someone who is clearly an idiot? My top tip is staple a transcript of this speech from Sir Michael Wilshaw to your lesson plan, and politely enquire how and why their views differ from the […]


  32. […] if you get observed by someone who is clearly an idiot? My top tip is staple a transcript of this speech from Sir Michael Wilshaw to your lesson plan, and politely enquire how and why their views differ from the […]


  33. […] head hadn’t heard or read Wilshaw’s speech, and when I approached him about it he simply said that it didn’t matter: what mattered was […]


  34. […] Head hadn’t heard or read Wilshaw’s speech, and when I approached him about it he simply said that it didn’t matter: what mattered was […]


  35. […] Andrew Old writes in his Scenes from the Battleground blog about teachers being told to ‘make children sit in […]


  36. […] It’s now clear to me that if we want to stop the predations of snake oil salesmen and Ofsted whisperers we must reclaim our expertise. We must boldly and confidently state that no one knows our students in our classrooms better than we do. We need to be able to counter any accusations that we talked too much or that our students were insufficiently independent by explaining that here is where they will be independent and in order for that to happen I need to actually teach them here. And if anyone ever feedbacks back on a lesson observation by saying “I wouldn’t have done it like that. I’d have done ….” we need to find a polite but assertive way to ask them to explain precisely how and why their views differ from Ofsted’s supremo, Sir Michael Wilshaw’s. […]


  37. […] Mike’s gone out his way to assure us that there is no single model for outstanding teaching. (What Ofsted say they want). Which is […]


  38. […] the child-centred inquisition did catch up with me, and having believed Michael Wilshaw’s speech about what OFSTED want I was observed by an inspector while I was making kids from an often lively […]


  39. […] might be fair comment but it is hard to see how it fits with Michael Wilshaw’s expressed opinion […]


  40. […] if you get observed by someone who is clearly an idiot? My top tip is staple a transcript of this speech from Sir Michael Wilshaw to your lesson plan, and politely inquire how and why their views differ from those of their […]


  41. […] Michael Wilshaw made a speech in February 2012 claiming there was no OFSTED teaching style and praising a “didactic” maths teacher which was confirmed in a new draft of the OFSTED handbook in summer 2012 which indicated there was no preferred teaching style and said that inspectors would not be looking for “independence” in every lesson (as blogged here). […]


  42. […] of the sort of teaching this counter-intuitive combination produces comes courtesy of Old Andrew: ‘A lot of teachers have been told that Ofsted will require them to stop teaching their classes and… There is no need to dance around the terminology: most Ofsted inspectors prefer ‘progressive’ […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,039 other followers

%d bloggers like this: