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What OFSTED Actually Want

February 16, 2013

My 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 Wilshaw.

It became widely distributed because it seemed to contradict the widespread impression that OFSTED wanted “progressive” style teaching, with lots of groupwork, entertainment, discovery learning and little teacher talk. Sir Michael rejected many of the common ideas about OFSTED, even saying he was wary of “an insistence that there should be a balance between teacher led activities and independent learning” and describing a “very traditional teacher” who “ taught in a pretty didactic way” as outstanding.

In a later speech – one that I actually saw him deliver – he made similar comments and in some ways went further, suggesting that even a “fairly boring lesson” could be acceptable if there was learning.

Let me emphasise again to anyone who hasn’t heard this from me or from anyone else in OFSTED.  OFSTED does not have a preferred style of teaching, does not have a preferred style of teaching.  Inspectors will simply judge teaching on whether children are engaged, focused, learning, and making progress, and in the best and most outstanding lessons, being inspired by the person in front of them.

We don’t want to see lessons that are too crowded, too frenetic, and with too many activities designed simply to impress the inspector.  And if that’s happened in the past, it’s wrong.  We simply want to see teaching that embeds learning.  Ultimately that is what matters.

Indeed, our recent Improving English forum report found a disturbing lack of extended reading and writing in English lessons, because too many teachers thought that they had to plan lessons that focused on activity rather than learning, so if teachers are going through with the class a Shakespeare text, that’s absolutely fine, and do nothing else, that’s fine.  If a teacher on a wet Friday afternoon is doing a fairly boring lesson on quadratic equations but the children are learning, that’s fine as well.

This did not appear to be a case of the chief inspector going “off-message” in that changes in the OFSTED handbook were also made to reflect this approach.

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…

Some key “progressive” jargon from the description of outstanding teaching in the previous handbook -“Teaching promotes pupils’ high levels of resilience, confidence and independence” – was removed. While it may not sound controversial, this was usually uderstood to refer to staples of progressive pedagogy such as groupwork, discovery learning and project-based learning. Inspectors had been advised to ask

Are pupils working independently? Are they self-reliant – do they make the most of the choices they are given or do they find it difficult to make choices? To what extent do pupils take responsibility for their own learning?„ How well do pupils collaborate with others? Do they ask questions, of each other, of the teacher or other adults, about what they are learning? Are pupils creative, do they show initiative?

One popular (but unofficial) guide to how to inspect lessons, used in differing versions in a lot of schools but often believed to be popular with inspectors claimed (among other atrocities such as learning styles), that a lesson would be inadequate if:

The children are not used to collaborative talk / working with a talk partner…

Classroom practices discourage independence…

To actually remove the requirement that inspectors look for independence and resilience in their observations was a huge shift. It was made clear that the removal of this criteria was not a mistake by the comment that:

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

The message was quite explicit, and I had helped spread it. Didactic teaching, unexciting content and plenty of teacher led activities were perfectly acceptable if it resulted in learning. “Independence” was no longer a requirement for lesson observations. Unfortunately, it was all bollocks.

” How I feel when I read that Ofsted don’t require any specific teaching style” Tom Bennett

So here’s the truth. Here’s what they actually want. Here are quotations about teaching and learning from OFSTED reports carried out since the new handbook was introduced in September 2012. (Dates given are the dates for the inspection). Here’s everything I could find about direct instruction, groupwork, whole class teaching and discovery learning in OFSTED reports. This is what they have been saying up and down the country at the chalkface, in a variety of schools with a variety of overall gradings.

In good lessons, teachers plan activities and use a wide variety of resources that enthuse and cater for the full range of needs and abilities. Teachers monitor learning throughout and pupils are encouraged to work in groups and engage in independent learning activities.

For example, in an English lesson, pupils worked enthusiastically in groups, rotating to different tables every 10 minutes to work together in solving challenges on the various forms and uses of verbs.

More typical, however, was a mathematics lesson seen on mirror images where progress was slow as some pupils had already mastered the topic in the previous year. The teacher’s extended presentation and setting of the same work for the entire class failed to cater for this group’s needs. The majority of lessons require improvement to enable pupils to consistently learn well and progress at a faster rate because typically: …

− teachers talk for too long and dominate the learning to the point that pupils begin to get restless

Brimsdown Primary School, Enfield, 11–12 September 2012

Teachers spend too long talking to the whole class, which restricts the time available for pupils to get on with their work.

Aylesford Primary School, Aylesford, 12–13 September 2012

In most lessons, pupils are keen and enthusiastic learners who relish the opportunity to work together. However, they are not always given enough opportunities to develop their independent learning skills.

St Ann’s CofE Primary School, South Tottenham,  20-21 September 2012

The most effective teachers provide significant opportunities for students to work independently. However, this was not a feature of the majority of lessons. Students’ views confirmed inspectors’ observations of too much passive learning where teachers dominated the discussion.

Shevington High School, Wigan, 26-27 September 2012

This is a school that requires improvement. It is not good because…Lessons are sometimes dominated by the teacher…

Opportunities are missed to engage everyone actively in their learning. Pupils sometimes sit and listen for too long while one pupil answers. In the best lessons, pupils are given opportunities to play a full part by briefly discussing the question in pairs. Teachers’ questioning skills are inconsistent. Not all teachers ask questions that develop pupils’ thinking skills sufficiently.

High Halstow Primary School, Rochester, 3–4 October 2012

Learners are frequently encouraged to develop their independent learning skills…. Learners value the opportunity to engage in debate in lessons, skilfully managed by teachers. A small minority of lessons are too teacher dominated and learners remain largely passive.

Brighton, Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College  (BHASVIC) 9-12 October 2012

Pupils are treated as individuals. Teachers and support staff motivate the pupils to do their  best and positive approaches help the pupils to build their confidence and self-esteem. Discussion led by the teacher or in small groups or pairs is well established. There is a buzz of activity and engagement when pupils explore their different ideas together.

St Katharine’s CE (VC) Primary School  Marlborough,  11–12 October 2012

Where teaching is outstanding, teachers encourage pupils to work together by telling them that ‘scientists work as a team’. Interesting problems posed by the teacher lead to pupils eagerly investigating such questions as whether sound travels round corners.

Duke Street Primary, Chorley, 23-24th October 2013

When teaching is less effective in Key Stages 1 and 2, the pace of learning slows when teachers spend too long talking to the whole class

Medlock Primary School, Manchester, 24–25 October 2012

In the best lessons, teachers provide opportunities for students to work independently and think for themselves. This is not always the case, and some lessons are too dominated by the teacher, which does not always help students to practise what they have learned.

Holy Family Catholic High School, Liverpool, 31 October–1 November 2012

In some lessons teachers spend too long talking to pupils and it takes too long for the pupils to engage with the activities set.

Pheasey Park Farm Primary School, Birmingham, 31 October–1 November 2012

Occasionally, however, teachers talk for too long and pupils are not given enough opportunities to offer their own ideas about how to tackle a given task.

The Crescent Primary School, Croydon, 7−8 November 2012

Some lessons include activities that help promote pupils’ personal development very effectively. For example, pupils in Year 1 developed a good understanding of their Cornish heritage when the teacher transformed the classroom so that they could pretend they were tin miners imagining the difficulties of working in the dark. Pupils worked well together in groups helping each other with their learning.

Wadebridge Primary Academy,  Wadebridge,  7–8 November 2012

In an outstanding English lesson, the energy and enthusiasm in the room were infectious.Animated Year 7 students worked in groups debating the vocabulary used by Dickens in an excerpt from A Christmas Carol….

Occasionally, tasks in lessons are not tailored closely enough to students’ needs, with all
expected to complete more or less similar work. These lessons do not provide enough challenge. They offer too few opportunities for students to work independently or in groups and too much of the ‘talk’ comes from the teacher, so that students are not able to contribute enough. Where this happens students do not meet their potential in the lesson.

The Forest School, Horsham, 14–15 November 2012

As a result of the teacher’s advice, Year 6 pupils have made good progress in science when encouraged to work together more to investigate soluble substances….

In some lessons observed, for example, when counting coins or practising times tables, all pupils were expected to recall the same skills at the same time…

In an outstanding Year 5 mathematics lesson, teachers and teaching support staff were deployed very well to work with different ability groups when investigating how to plot coordinates…

In a good Year 6 science lesson, pupils were encouraged to talk about each other’s views and offer critical opinions about whether sugar, flour and sand would dissolve in water.

St John the Evangelist RC, Primary School Bolton, 14–15 November 2012

In a few lessons, pupils were less enthusiastic because the teachers’ explanations took too long and were too complicated, and there was too much recapping of work already familiar to pupils. This left little time for pupils to work on individual tasks, and occasionally, these were class tasks, rather than adapted to meet individual needs.

College House Junior School, Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, 21–22 November 2012

A minority of teaching still requires improvement. In these cases, the teacher dominates the lesson by talking too much and/or over-directing learning. This cuts down students’ opportunities to develop their independent learning skills by working on their own or in groups.

Hellesdon High School, Norwich, 21–22 November 2012

In the best lessons questions are clearly focused and teachers provide opportunities and time for pupils to think for themselves and work in pairs, for example to solve problems.

Children in the Nursery class regularly enjoy a variety of interesting and stimulating activities. Adults are knowledgeable about the needs of very young children and plan their play and learning so it is imaginative and challenging.

Most pupils, especially those in Key Stage 2, know how well they are doing and can say whatbthey need to do in order to develop their learning further. Pupils say that they find teachers’ comments and marking helpful but not all benefit from the opportunities to read and think about what their teacher has to say.

Teachers strive to make lessons as interesting as possible and encourage pupils to work together and listen to what others have to say. Pupils in one class were able to show how well they work together when they were asked to put the Big Bad Wolf on trial. They took delight in working in small groups to form a prosecution and defence and to bring forward fairy-tale character witnesses to support them in assessing the wolf’s guilt or innocence.

Many lessons are well planned with a variety of activities for pupils of different abilities. However, in a small minority there is not enough evidence in the planning of how teachers intend to meet individual pupil’s needs and all activities are the same….

In an outstanding lesson, pupils showed  their ability to work well together as they used their creativity and imaginations to compose mobile phone ring tones and produce short animations to a very high standard….

In some lessons, opportunities are missed to harness the enthusiasm and interest of more-able pupils who have the ability and drive to work on their own, in pairs or in groups to find things out for themselves, explore and discuss their ideas.

Calverley Parkside Primary School, 22–23 November 2012

In the less effective lessons there are common weaknesses. In some cases, teachers spend too long talking to the whole class… These lessons offer too few opportunities for students to work independently or in groups

Chichester High School for Boys, Chichester, 27–28 November 2012

In the most effective lessons, teachers plan a variety of creative learning activities which stimulate and challenge pupils to explore their learning for themselves and to use their good social and interaction skills. This was particularly found in the foundation unit and special resource centre. The very colourful integrated provision provides pupils with large free-flowing spaces and stimulating resources which help them to play and learn together and to develop their knowledge and understanding about the world in which they live.

… Occasionally, teachers’ questioning is not demanding enough, and teachers do not encourage pupils to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions with each other. An example of this was seen in a Year 3 lesson where pupils were considering why it is important for Hindus to make a pilgrimage to Varanasi in order to ‘wash away sins’. Pupils spent too much time being told what they needed to do, and not enough time thinking for themselves.

Mayflower Primary School, Plymouth, 28–29 November 2012

What does the school need to do to improve further? Increase the proportion of outstanding teaching by… making sure that teachers do not dominate lessons by talking for too long or telling pupils things they could read or work out for themselves…

…Occasionally, teachers are too quick to explain things or to ‘tell’ pupils something that they could have challenged pupils to explain or find out about for themselves.

Penn Fields School, Wolverhampton, 4–5 December 2012

In English, marking motivates pupils to be imaginative as well as improving the technical aspects of their writing. Occasionally, teachers miss opportunities to encourage pupils to explore mathematical ideas in a similarly creative way.

Bayton CofE Primary School, Near Kidderminster, 5–6 December 2012

In less effective lessons, there is an over reliance on whole-class activities that are sometimes dominated by the teacher. This prevents students from taking their own initiative or developing the ability to work more independently.

Chilton Trinity School,Bridgwater, 6–7 December 2012

In the best lessons enthusiastic teachers use a wide range of resources to capture pupils’ interest. In some, however, teachers spend too long talking to the whole class when introducing the lesson and pupils lose valuable time when they could be working by themselves. This limits the progress pupils can make and hinders their ability to practise and improve their work.

…Teachers encourage pupils to work together and this allows them to learn from each other. In a Year 5 religious education lesson pupils worked in pairs in a role-playing exercise, followed by small group discussions to describe a situation and share ideas successfully.

St Vincent’s RC Primary School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 18–19 December 2012

In the best lessons, teachers provide opportunities for students to work independently or collaboratively. This is not always the case and a few lessons are too dominated by the teacher, preventing students thinking for themselves and taking the initiative.

Preston Muslim Girls High School, Preston, 15–16 January 2013

Pupils’ ability to work exceptionally well in groups and independently for extended periods makes a significant contribution to their outstanding learning.

Tonacliffe Primary School, Whitworth, 16–17 January 2013

In the few lessons where teaching requires improvement, lessons are too teacher-dominated and students are asked to complete repetitive tasks. Students have excellent attitudes to learning. They say that teachers ‘make lessons fun and interesting’ and are strongly motivated to achieve. When working in groups, they value each other’s views and enjoy collaborating to solve problems set by their teachers. Students develop confidence and resilience as learners, and this supports their good progress.

Madeley High School, Crewe, 17–18 January 2013

Lessons are planned in a way that challenges all students to make rapid progress. They are typically characterised by… opportunities for students to work together in groups and to help each other…

St Albans Girls’ School, St Albans, 22–23 January 2013

Some features of effective teaching are seen across all subjects. Teachers give students opportunities to develop the ability to work on their own and to collaborate and discuss their work in groups.

Bilton School, Rugby, 23–24 January 2013

I’m sure I can be accused of being selective, but I doubt that an opposing case could be made from the reports I have seen. Whatever Michael Wilshaw says, teacher talk is still out and groupwork and discovery learning are still in.  I deeply regret that I was ever stupid enough to believe that the views of the chief inspector and a revised handbook would be enough to cure the Child-Centred Inquisition of their mission to enforce trendy teaching methods on us all. OFSTED remains the steadfast enforcer of the orthodoxies of progressive education, and it is OFSTED, not league tables or government policies, which most shapes our classroom practices.

We should also remember that these quotations are not simply dry statements in reports which will be read by very few; they reflect judgements that will have consequences for schools and for individuals. Teachers, many of whom will have considered themselves highly effective, will have been sat down and told they are inadequate because they talk too much or because their classes were not working in groups. Headteachers in schools with good results and happy kids will be told they need to improve because of their reliance on traditional teaching methods. Leaders of appalling, under-performing schools who fail their students by chasing after all the latest guff, will have been told that they are “good” because they have introduced groupwork into every lesson. Careers will have been made or ruined on the back of the unofficial ideology enforced, through fear, by OFSTED. My view is that until OFSTED are abolished, or reformed beyond recognition, then our system will remain imprisoned by the progressive orthodoxy no matter what the politicians, or the chief inspector, happens to say.

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46 comments

  1. The irony is that OFSTED was originally established to try to enforce a more trad curriculum, because it was felt that the old LEA-led inspectors had been ‘captured’ by the progs. (If I recall correctly, most of my colleagues at the time were terrified, because OFSTED was going to come in and force them to teach in rows etc.; which they had no idea how to do!)


  2. “Leaders of appalling, under-performing schools who fail their students by chasing after all the latest guff, will have been told that they are “good” because they have introduced groupwork into every lesson.”

    Any evidence? Not your forte it must be admitted when airing your Cummingsesque bitter grievances.


    • Bizarre comment when I have spent so many hours compiling the evidence for this blogpost. The above quotation is what both personal experience, and the evidence presented in this blogpost, would lead me to expect. Do you have any evidence against?


    • Agree with Felix, what evidence do you have? Show me an under performing school that has a ‘good’ grade. ‘Under-performing schools’ (usually categoried by attainment not progress) have no chance at being told they are good as Ofsted is so data driven. Before you attempt to pigeon hole me, I am fortunate enough to be part of an outstanding school, however I know that it is extremely difficult to be judged as this unless data is above national average, regardless of starting points. Anyway that’s another matter, you seem to be an advocate of ‘rote learning’ rather than inspiring children, giving them the thirst for learning. Here’s a prime example, I could hammer my year 3 class with facts about ancient Egypt. I can talk for an hour & I guarantee they know more now then they did at the beginning of the lesson. Did they enjoy it? The majority probably didn’t but progress was evident – is that outstanding teaching? No! Instead I may use some independent learning strategies, not because they are en vogue, but because I know the impact they have on not only progress & knowledge but because it makes them inquisitive! So instead I provide a selection of materials, books, computers etc & say, ‘the answers are, pyramid, Nile, Ra, Tutankhamen. What could the questions be?’ If Ofsted are looking for engaging teaching that encourages progress then hats off to them, as you (& I suspect your pin up boy Gove) haven’t got a clue!


      • Ignoring the guff, your first point will be addressed in an upcoming blogpost.


  3. This was the funniest report I ever read. Sorry it is pre Wilshaw but the ‘Mud Hedgehogs’ bit makes it worth sharing even so.

    Dean Close Pre-prep – ISI inspection 2011

    “The quality of pupils’ achievements is good…. Pupils throughout the school develop excellent attitudes towards their learning. They enjoy lessons, are eager to learn and they work hard… They quickly learn the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy and their attainment in these areas is above and frequently well above average. Younger pupils make rapid progress with their reading …Pupils’ writing skills develop early and by Year 2, show imagination and developing use of simple grammar and accurate spelling. Pupils also develop strong numeracy skills and master mathematical concepts of increasing difficulty.” etc etc – it’s all glowing.

    But then… “Pupils’ rapid gains in their learning are particularly evident during the parts of the lesson when they work independently or collaboratively on activities or challenges. For example, in an outdoor lesson Year 1 pupils were highly motivated by the challenge of making mud hedgehogs. Pupils worked together to use their problem solving skills, and a range of equipment to achieve a successful outcome .Occasionally, achievement is slowed down in lessons where these skills are not so consistently developed. “
    Thank goodness they make mud hedgehogs or they would be at risk of a very mediocre education. Maybe I want to weep, not laugh. BTW ISI reports don’t often have such a strong agenda. I think poor old Dean Close got a zealot.


  4. Nothing that Wilshaw had previous said implied that it was acceptable to just stand at the front of the room talking at the children. If teacher talk is purposeful, appropriate and allows children to learn then I’m sure many Ofsted inspectors will grade lessons as Good+. However, too often teachers stand at the front talking at length without any regard for whether students are actually learning anything. Saying that too much teacher talk is a bad thing does not mean that didactic teaching is seen as a bad thing.


    • I myself was quite pleased with Wilshaw’s comments- and I actually think he meant them.

      But, as in all organisations, its possible not all of his minions agree with him.

      That may explain some of the examples/quotes OA provided. eg St Vincents is phrased in such a way to suggest that any deviation from group work is inadequate teaching by definition.

      And I would dispute any assertion from any inspector about the lecture/group work ratio for a particular dept.

      Because unless they see the class at work for several days in a row how can they claim sufficient observational evidence?

      On a Monday, most of my classes may ‘happen’ to be doing group work.

      On a Tuesday, most of my classes may ‘happen’ to be doing individual project work.

      On a Wednesday most of my classes may ‘happen’ to be me droning on at the front.

      and in all 3 cases it may be perfect choice and delivery by me depending on contest and task.

      But heaven help me if I get inspected on a Wednesday eh?


      • And my experience is that most teachers (and their bosses) end up having to take a guess at ‘what Ofsted want’, as you’d have to be fairly crazy to think that you can teach how you think best in the face of an inspection which is looking for… what exactly? ‘Outstanding teaching’, whatever that may be.

        As ever, the problem with any inspection regime based on subjective criteria – as any inspection of teaching must inevitably be for reasons clear to anyone with any experience of being observed – is that those being inspected (and especially those in charge of those being inspected) have little choice but to try and anticipate what the inspectors want. Which appears to mean not teaching ‘Wednesday’ lessons when an inspector calls, whatever Sir Michael says.

        Most worrying is the idea, as you point out, that Ofsted minions may not agree with Sir Michael Wilshaw on what constitutes good teaching, but that that clearly doesn’t stop them making judgements which may “make or ruin careers”. That’s a damning indictment of Ofsted.


    • The reason this post is so long is precisely so that the weight of evidence was too much for it simply to be down to a few badly written descriptions of ineffective teacher talk. There can be no doubt from the sources that there is a presumption against teacher talk. Some are particularly clear about this.

      Or are you really claiming that there was a sudden outbreak of particularly ineffective teacher talk that dozens of inspectors all saw but failed to describe clearly?


      • I don’t think any sensible person can argue that the best way to transmit knowledge from teacher to pupil is by direct instruction. I also think that between ‘direct instruction’ and ‘independent working’ (that is working in silence, yes?) there is a need for some collaboration? If only some time to discuss what has last been learned? Or, to use some new vocabulary?


  5. Thanks for this article – very interesting and informative. I will certainly use this to inform my work. However, there is a mistake. The Forest School in Horsham is an 11-16 school, yet in this article, you refer for Year 5/6.


    • No, hang on, it is right. WordPress has mashed up my spacing, but the school name is after the quotation, not before.


  6. I wonder if people have seen this article: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6172449

    In particular: “Professor Wiliam said he knew of schools that were given overall “outstanding” verdicts, with a “good” for teaching, even though their contextual value-added scores showed their pupils were making less than the average national rate of progress.”

    Wiliam and Wilshaw are right. OFSTED should be looking at the amount of progress pupils make in their learning, and not at the way a particular lesson is conducted.


  7. But isn’t part of the problem is that we have no idea what these inspectors actually saw. If the lessons were teachers just ‘lecturing’ then the comments may be correct, but there is a difference between good didactic teaching and someone just dominating the class. Similarly group work, does it mean they spend the whole lesson self motivated and working on a couple of tasks, or do they mean several short sections where they worked together, then joined as a whole class. I think the biggest danger you can set if you are doing all the talking is failing to present opportunities in the lesson for inspectors to see evidence of learning. This fits in with Wilshaw’s comments, I’d imagine it is much easier for evidence of learning to be easily observable if students are seen to be talking about the topic or engaged in an activity than if they are listening or taking notes?


    • Well yes, if, in a climate where teachers are being constantly pressured to be a facilitator and a guide from the side, there was an unexpected epidemic of lecturing that occurred even in primary schools, then that might explain the comments.

      On the other hand, that’s just silly.


      • I think I was wondering out loud if there is an issue of evidence/lazy evidence collection. For example the inspector feels teaching is bad and the standard evidence is that there is too much teacher exposition (notice there is no actual quantification of what that means) in reality it might be that there is just as much teacher talk in both classrooms. Similarly when trying to both provide evidence to the inspector and for the inspector writing up the evidence for their judgement, seeing kids work in groups or pairs is an easy way to ‘see’ learning.
        My shocking revelation/speculation is that observation reports bear only a passing resemblance to the lesson. That lazy short hand ways of ‘evidencing’ poor/good lessons exists and that this does remain trapped in the ‘culture’ pre wilshaw. The teacher talking bit is always difficult, to judge, was it combined with questions, was it engaging or informative, was it effective etc etc. Can you imagine a comment like ‘the learning was good as students sat in silence while the teacher explained the ideas in detail’. How can that be evidence of learning?The students learning might be good or poor, but that observation can actually say nothing about it.

        However I do concede the point that the point does suggest that there is a specific idea that teacher dominated classrooms are a bad learning environment. This does not follow and the classroom being ‘dominated’ (how can it not) by the teacher does not imply that learning is not good.


      • “there was an unexpected epidemic of lecturing that occurred”.

        You have an “after” but do you have a “before”? Surely the only way you can comment on any change that is happening between two points is by having a comprehensive, rigorous set of data for before and after.

        Even if we accept that post Wilshaw you have done an excellent job of collating evidence (and the effort you have out in cannot be doubted), then the question remains, “How do we know what inspectors were saying before?”


        • OFSTED’s opposition to traditional teaching was well-established before Wilshaw. We had a system where schools were systematically eliminating traditional teaching. Now either one is describing even that system as having too much teacher talk, or there was a sudden epidemic post-September 2012.

          I admit that a claim there is too much teacher talk now could be based on either possibility, but I was assuming nobody would claim the former.


  8. Interesting reading. I think it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions about the judgements ofsted have made on particular lessons/schools without any other knowledge apart from their writing though. For balance, how about going through the same reports to see if there’s any criticism of lessons for a ‘lack of direction from teachers’ or ‘unstructured time’ or other such phrases.

    I understand you have a particular agenda in terms of the type of teaching you think we should see in schools, but I still fail to see why pupil independence is a bad thing to strive for.


  9. I hope OA forgives me for butting in but I wasn’t aware he thought pupil independence was a bad thing.

    In all these years I rather thought he likes it a lot.


    • We ALL want students capable of working independently – it’s the horror that often masquerades as ‘independent learning’ that should be rooted out. Or something like that.


  10. Reblogged this on @DTtoolkit.


  11. [...] What Ofsted actually want [...]


  12. As long as a political consensus exists in favour of OFSTED, it will continue to damage our education system. The Labour Party is surely the only weak spot in this consensus. This is where our efforts must focus.


  13. [...] (dubbed the ‘Child-Centred Inquisition’ by a fellow teacher blogger) repeatedly endorses progressive teaching methods at the expense of traditional teaching. The 2011 [...]


  14. […] that Ofsted had no preferred methodology and that didactic lessons could be outstanding, but Old Andrew’s research into the sad reality of Ofsted inspections means that being allowed to talk in lessons is the new ideological battleground between ordinary […]


  15. […] what Ofsted want and how to give it to them. For his typical measured and balanced approach, see this post from @OldAndrewUK. The reality is probably that different inspectors or observers would give […]


  16. […] it’s almost a foundational part of the narrative of a certain approach to teaching. Read Andrew Old’s meticulously researched analysis of recent OSTED inspections and you can almost hear the inspectors furiously agreeing with […]


  17. […] to see independent learning and minimal teacher talk. If you’re unconvinced, have a read of this and […]


  18. “Progress in some lessons slows because too little emphasis is placed on students discussing their mathematics, exploring misconceptions and making sense of mathematics for themselves.”
    St. Leonard’s RC Durham


  19. […] interesting developments from Mary regarding teaching styles. Forms an interesting counterpoint to this blog from teachingbattleground http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/what-ofsted-actually-want/ […]


  20. I was curious about how West London Free School’s Ofsted in July went for them. The teaching was rated good but there were some very explicit statements about what would have been viewed as outstanding teaching.
    “In the few examples of outstanding teaching, extremely well-planned opportunities for pupils to find things out for themselves resulted in rapid gains in their learning and high levels of enjoyment and engagement. For example, in an English lesson, taught by the director of studies, pupils relished the challenge of piecing together the meaning of a poem from different pieces of evidence. The competitive edge to the lesson meant that all pupils were motivated to do well and, by the end of the lesson, pupils’ knowledge and understanding were greatly enhanced.
    In the large majority of lessons where teaching is good, pupils benefit from well-structured
    purposeful opportunities to work together; for example, by coaching each other to improve their batting techniques in cricket.
    In the small number of instances where teaching was less effective, learning was not challenging enough. While pupils are expected to complete a lot of activities, there was limited scope for pupils to speculate, hypothesise and draw their own conclusions. In these lessons, pupils become passive and make smaller gains in their learning because the fast pace means their responses are superficial and lack rigour.”


  21. Is learning observable? Behaviour obviously is, so that is what OFSTED inspectors report on. If, however, learning is not observable, as Rod Ellis stated in a Temple University lecture I attended in the 1980s, then most of the OFSTED reports about learning are pure supposition.


    • It seems from reports that Ofsted simply assume learning has occurred when preferred teaching methods are used (and has not when other methods are used).


  22. […] to see independent learning and minimal teacher talk. If you’re unconvinced, have a read of this and […]


  23. […] that Ofsted had no preferred methodology and that didactic lessons could be outstanding, but Old Andrew’s research into the sad reality of Ofsted inspections means that being allowed to talk in lessons is the new ideological battleground between ordinary […]


  24. […] made another speech (which I quoted here) which made the same point and even described a “fairly boring” lesson as […]


  25. […] Christodoulou in her book The Seven Myths of Education, and Andrew Old on his blog have done a better job than I have the patience for in cataloguing where OFSTED challenge a liberal […]


  26. […] examples of their own’ so this is not described as passive learning. There are many examples in Ofsted reports where ‘teacher talk’ is criticised but I feel that the report is at pains to clarify that […]


  27. >>Teachers, many of whom will have considered themselves highly effective, will have been sat down and told they are inadequate because they talk too much or because their classes were not working in groups.

    Yep, that’s me.


  28. (albeit from an internal observation based on OFSTED criteria)…


  29. […] experiences of Ofsted inspections, from a variety of sources, suggest that inspectors are still demanding a particular method of teaching.  The most obvious example of this is the suggested lesson ratios, where there is no […]


  30. […] It must be noted though, that there have been a number of instances where individual inspectors and teams of inspectors have disregarded Wilshaw’s stance, and have criticised schools for not promoting independent learning. Old Andrew has given a good analysis of this on his blog Scenes from the Battleground. […]


  31. […] What OFSTED Actually Want […]



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