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Why That OFSTED News Is So Important

December 26, 2013

A lot of people read my last post about the changes to the OFSTED guidance (11,302 page views at last count). The response to the changes which I saw from teachers on social media was overwhelmingly one of delight. Even people who probably don’t have the same views on pedagogy as I do, welcomed it because it indicated that teachers might have more freedom to teach how they choose; a principle that is accepted well beyond those whose style of teaching is furthest from the “OFSTED model”.

However, I suspect the importance is clearest to those who have kept up on the recent controversies (particularly on this blog) over how inspectors behave. While the full text addressed a lot of points that have been raised by a lot of people, the first paragraph was almost point for point about the issues raised here and I will review every every part of it here. It begins:

Inspectors must not give the impression that Ofsted favours a particular teaching style.

This is a message which I had, foolishly, publicised back in October 2012. I drew attention to it in a blogpost which transcribed a speech by Sir Michael Wilshaw and quoted from the (then) most recent OFSTED handbook, both of which explained that there was no preferred teaching style. I did so because I had heard again, and again, in schools that teachers were expected to use groupwork; minimise time spent explaining and leave students working “independently” as much as possible in order to meet OFSTED requirements. As an advocate of “traditional” rather than “progressive” teaching methods, I wanted people to know that traditional teaching wasn’t condemned by the inspectorate.

I was wrong. Not much later, I had the misfortune to go through an OFSTED inspection and saw first hand how inspectors could ignore results and look only for the approved style of teaching. I could rant about my personal experience at great length, but for the sake of anonymity I will keep details to myself. Nevertheless, I was soon looking to see whether my experience was typical or not. I found out that it was. Far from having no views about the styles of teaching I kept finding the same few criticisms of teaching in OFSTED reports from inspections that were suppose to have been carried out under the very handbook I had quoted from. I also found preferred teaching styles and methods in other documents produced by OFSTED. This is why the next point is key:

Moreover, they [i.e. inspectors] must not inspect or report in a way that is not stipulated in the framework, handbook or guidance.

While the three documents mentioned above seem to have the right message about teaching styles (particularly in the redraft of the handbook from last summer), and Wilshaw has reinforced this elsewhere, plenty of other OFSTED documents have had, and do have, a very clear agenda. In this blogpost I listed examples of a very “progressive” approach to maths teaching in OFSTED “good practice” videos and case studies. In another post I indicated some similar content in other best practice videos (including one for English in which it was claimed flip cameras were “essential”). These were temporarily removed but soon returned. The subject specific guidance (meant for subject surveys) was particularly bad, as I pointed out here. Even after they disappeared they still had an effect on the subject survey reports, and when they returned they were as bad as ever.

For example, they [inspectors] should not criticise teacher talk for being overlong or bemoan a lack of opportunity for different activities in lessons unless there is unequivocal evidence that this is slowing learning over time.

I found repeated complaints about teacher talk and teachers dominating lessons in OFSTED reports from September 2012 – February 2013 which can be found in this post. Some examples from March 2013 are in this post. It was also in reports from summer term 2013 and the report on careers guidance (quoted here). It continued last term as demonstrated here. It has become so much a part of what is expected that one company offered training in meeting “OFSTED’s minimum talk expectations” . What is particularly important in the new guidance is the mention of ” unequivocal evidence that this is slowing learning over time”. The standard excuse (discussed here) is that when OFSTED condemn teacher talk they are actually condemning a lack of learning that, it is asserted, has resulted from it. Now the burden of proof seems to have shifted to the inspectors.

The next part of the guidance says:

It is unrealistic, too, for inspectors to necessarily expect that all work in all lessons is always matched to the specific needs of each individual.

The possibility that OFSTED were demanding differentiated work far beyond what was practical was one I raised here.

The next part is, again, particularly welcome:

Do not expect to see ‘independent learning’ in all lessons and do not make the assumption that this is always necessary or desirable.

Comments from OFSTED reports about the need for independent work can be found in my post about September 2012- February 2013 reports. And in the reports in this March 2013 post. It was also in reports from summer term 2013 (quoted here). It continued this term as demonstrated here and here. It also featured heavily in the subject specific guidance. It even appeared in the style guidance for writing reports (see the second part of this post).

On occasions, too, pupils are rightly passive rather than active recipients of learning. Do not criticise ‘passivity’ as a matter of course and certainly not unless it is evidently stopping pupils from learning new knowledge or gaining skills and understanding.

This seems to sum up some of the other points rather well. OFSTED had been following an ideology, much established in England since at least the sixties, which claims that less is always more when it comes to teaching, and that students learn more when left to work through activities, talk to each other or research for themselves. Often this is combined with a belief that to be told something by a teacher is boring and oppressive, while there is something inherently “engaging” (a weasel word for “entertaining”) about the “child-centred” methods. As well as the continual demands for “independence” and condemnations of teacher talk, it also resulted in other dubious practices endorsed by OFSTED. The belief that it was better for questions and activities to be “open-ended” (i.e. not have one particular answer or intended outcome) was one example of this. The promotion of poorly structured methods for teaching literacy was another.

These are complex debates, and OFSTED had, for over a decade, silenced one side of that debate. That the debate continues was shown by a few responses to the OFSTED news that were more cautious or even negative. Some of those on the “progressive” side of the educational debate feared either that teaching would suffer if traditional methods were permitted, or that what was now permitted would become compulsory. The latter point is, I’m sure, legitimate and the correct location of the limits of teacher freedom are a difficult issue and one worth returning to in more depth, although it is a bit rich to hear from those advocating an ideology which has been the unchallenged orthodoxy in so many schools for so long. The former point is one I have no time for. Teaching is about learning and far from being a threat to that, the case for traditional teaching has always been strong and usually shouted down rather than directly challenged. The evidence that explicit instruction should not be minimised is incredibly strong, as pointed out by Kirschner et al (2006). More widely in the debate about what works (for instance as shown in Hattie’s Visible Learning), the high effect sizes for direct instruction, and low effect sizes for problem-solving learning and discovery learning, illustrates how harmful OFSTED’s preferences are likely to have been. And while there is no clear-cut evidence that, mixed ability teaching, groupwork or project-based learning are ineffective there is equally no good evidence for why they should be generally preferred to the alternatives. This empirical background to the ideological debate is one that, still, too few teachers have heard.

Which brings us to another point, that of restitution. Highly effective teachers have been bullied out, forced to change teaching style, or had their careers utterly ruined by OFSTED’s war on traditional teaching. While we can celebrate the moves to stop this in future (while being acutely aware that it might only be a temporary reprieve) what can actually happen to undo the damage and injustices already done? There are schools run by people who are only there because of their willingness to denounce traditional teaching in favour of the latest fad. There are those who have left teaching rather than abandon traditional teaching. This does nothing to rebalance the scales or change the balance of power so that those advocating progressive education no longer have the whiphand within schools. The harm done by OFSTED is a fact of life and we have no reason to think that under a weaker secretary of state it might not quickly return to old habits. I described in this blogpost what I think needs to be done about OFSTED (and here why I thought gradual reform wasn’t working and here some of the problems with how OFSTED is organised). That said, I do think a small part of that blogpost on what should change  has now been addressed, specifically  this part:

Connected to the issue of what inspectors are looking for is the issue of how it is described. There is a strong tradition in education debate. largely on the progressive side, to use words in ambiguous ways or even to redefine words to mean something else. Phonics denialists will often redefine the word “reading” so as to include guessing the meaning of a word you can’t actually read. Students will be told to work in groups in order to show “independence”. I heard a senior figure in OFSTED explain that references to “fluency” in the new National Curriculum should be interpreted to mean understanding concepts, not being able to recall information. I cannot overstate the extent to which everything in education has to be clearly stated and clearly defined. This does not happen with OFSTED publications. It is hard to get across the bizarre conversations you can have about OFSTED criteria. I have shown people the section of the OFSTED handbook which says: “[n]ot all aspects of learning, for example pupils’ engagement, interest, concentration, determination, resilience and independence, may be seen in a single observation”  only to be told that this simply confirms that they will be looking for those things generally. Very recently, I have been told that the passages in the latest handbook about how outstanding behaviour implies that “[p]upils’ consistently display a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning” means that students must be entertained by the teaching and that this will be expected if lesson observations are to be given an outstanding. I’m still being told that “independence” (meaning groupwork) is what OFSTED will want to see and that OFSTED will only tolerate marking in the form of a written dialogue with the student…

It doesn’t help that there is still jargon in the handbook, the maths section talks of  ”requir[ing] pupils to think and reason for themselves” which in education debate can mean a ludicrous variety of things many of which require particular types of teaching and activity.  Wilshaw may be intent on removing overly proscriptive phrases from the OFSTED vocabulary, but this has often just created ambiguity. It is not enough simply to say “we won’t require X”, you have to say “we are perfectly happy to see Z”.  Anything which OFSTED have appeared to be against in the past needs to be directly rehabilitated and declared permissible in the handbook, otherwise old habits will continue.

But, of course, this could just be another false dawn. I had recently suggested here that there were indicators from reports and training that OFSTED had already changed. I may have spoken too soon; people have contacted me with details of some very recent reports. The following two examples come from reports published just before the Christmas holidays based on mid-November inspections:

What does the school need to do to improve further?  Improve teaching so that it is at least good by:.. giving students time to work independently and to think for themselves…  Students become bored when teachers talk for too long and give them too few opportunities to tackle high-quality independent work. . As a result, they become over-reliant on teachers.

Farnborough School Technology College, Nottingham

The quality of teaching requires improvement…  In the lessons where teaching was less effective, the pace was too slow because the teacher talked too much. In these lessons the students were given too few opportunities to think for themselves or discuss their developing knowledge and understanding with their classmates… Students spoken to in Key Stage 3 were particularly unhappy about the slow pace of some lessons.

Newman Catholic School, Carlisle

These are two schools which got a 4 and a 3 respectively. Whether they would have done better if they had conformed to the “OFSTED teaching style” is an open question, but one which will no doubt affect how those schools respond to the reports. At least now any school getting feedback like this would be able to challenge it directly as evidence that inspectors were exceeding their authority. It remains to be seen how much actual change will now happen, but vigilance will be key. If inspectors are ignoring the guidance, teachers, unions and SMT need to be challenging them on it, not just when it affects a school’s grade, but whenever it can have influence on practice or policy within schools. We now have what was most needed, clear guidance that traditional teaching must be permitted, we must work hard to make sure that this is understood by every inspector, consultant and school.

24 comments

  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


    • ¨Highly effective teachers have been bullied out, forced to change teaching style, or had their careers utterly ruined by OFSTED’s war on traditional teaching.¨ Ofsted is a political invention and it will takes politics to get rid of it. That it has caused a decay in standards is not in doubt. Whether this has been done because of a hatred of public sector workers as some kind of parasite, and to bolster elite independent schools at the same time, is hard to prove.


  2. As you said previously, this is a key moment, and we need to ensure that it is known as widely as possible. It may just be the moment when we can start to challenge all those dubious orthodoxies and return reasonable authority to the classroom teacher.


  3. I guess there was always going to be a point where our views of these changes was going to diverge, and here we are.

    I wholeheartedly agree that it was plain silly to look for progress, independent activity, groupwork, progress etc in every 20 minute session for every student.

    I wholeheartedly agree that what is important is that learning takes place, and that all kids progress over time.

    Where I start to disagree is when the changes are interpreted as they are above, which I see as moving from their dogmatic position to your dogmatic position. I do not think this is the case and I wholeheartedly hope this is not the case.

    I hope that the changes have the following general effect….

    If there is too much teacher talk resulting in wasted time and bored kids this will be noted. If there is insufficient teacher talk to pass on the required knowledge/skills guidance then this will be noted. If there is no independent activity in any of a teacher’s lessons this will be noted and if there is independent activity at the expense of learning then this will be noted. If there is too much groupwork this will be not and if there is insufficient groupwork this will be noted.

    I think your interpretation of the changes is biased, and based upon your interpretation and use of the research evidence out there which is often at odds with much of the teaching community.

    You talk about definitions which I believe is a key issue, but you then explain that your definitions are the correct ones and those of the “trendies” are way off the mark.

    You talk about Kirschner, whose work on cognitive load is well respected, but only one or two crazy types actually try to minimise learning. Very few teachers at secondary level would use purely discovery approaches or problem based approaches.

    You talk about Ofsted’s war on traditional teaching when I do not think such a thing exists, whereas you really do seem to be at war with what you define as trendies.

    “In the lessons where teaching was less effective, the pace was too slow because the teacher talked too much. In these lessons the students were given too few opportunities to think for themselves or discuss their developing knowledge and understanding with their classmates”

    This seems to me to wholly reasonable. Just as you would not be able to “prove” that less effective learning resulted from groupwork or independent activity, Ofsted will not be able to prove “no learning took place” or that too much teaxcher waffling led to a less productive lesson.

    Ofsted will continue to make judgements. They will still see too much teacher talk (just as I sometimes see too much teacher talk). Ofsted will still see too much independent activity leading to insufficient learning (just as I sometimes see too much independent activity lead to insufficient learning).

    Ofsted may now change their guidance/approach and ask to see more detailed planning so that they can check teacher talk, independence etc over time.

    I believe I could make a case for rating almost any lesson into adjacent bands and Ofsted inspectors are probably better at it than I am.

    Giving teachers a fair crack and allowing some professional autonomy is to be celebrated. Talking about waging war on traditional teaching and then suggesting that this war has directly resulted in teachers suffering depression and leaving the profession is for me a step too far from reality and a step too close to a need for followers/views.

    Most teachers I know who have suffered, have suffered as a result of changes to pay and conditions, work load, policies (which have not been responses to Ofsted’s requirements). such as marking and homework policies.

    Incompetent SMT should not be conflated with Ofsted guidance. Most stress in my experience comes from Government (Gove currently) and incompetent SMT unable to improve things acting out of desparation.

    The Ofsted changes will help me a little, are not a sign of me winning the war, as for me there is no war. I am sure for Ofsted there is now war and for the vast majority of teachers there is no war other than that with their SMT.


    • “If there is too much groupwork this will be not and if there is insufficient groupwork this will be noted.”

      This is where the problems start. You appear to think there is such a thing as “insufficient groupwork”.

      Outside drama and PE, there is no evidence that any groupwork AT ALL provides any benefit.

      So,to my mind, any report noting “insufficient groupwork” is a problem – one indicating the progressive, anti-evidence movement is resurging.


      • Bt0558

        You are just plain wrong if you believe that a ‘war’ on traditional methods has not been going on (although purge would be a better description, war implies an ongoing conflict).

        In the last 10 years the practice of teaching kids difficult stuff by 1.explaining it to them.
        2. having them repeat it to you.
        3.write it down competently.
        has gone from ‘a way of teaching’ to ‘reactionary domination that requires eradication’.


        • Not in my classroom. I use a mix of direct instruction and indirect instruction as I always have,

          I don’t necessarily agree that the 3 steps described are always the best way for kids to learn difficult stuff, but I use elements of all 3 much of the time.

          I have seen very traditional methods used in schools rated as outstanding during the last 12 months, and during the same period what OA describes as trendy rated as requires improvement.

          The changes to the Ofsted guidance will hopefully enable teachers in some of the more extreme “trendy” places to have a bit more balance in their teaching. It would be a travesty if the guidance allowed for teachers to bore kids to death with teachertalk and I am sure that won’t happen.


    • Where I start to disagree is when the changes are interpreted as they are above, which I see as moving from their dogmatic position to your dogmatic position.

      It’s never helpful in an argument to start characterising opposing positions as dogmatic without a good argument. Nor to create two extreme positions which (regardless of whether anyone holds them) conveniently frame your own position as some kind of reasonable compromise.

      I hope that the changes have the following general effect….

      If there is too much teacher talk resulting in wasted time and bored kids this will be noted.

      Ignoring the obvious issue of why “bored kids” is more of a concern to you than kids not learning, this seems to completely ignore what has already been debated repeatedly. There is not a correct and incorrect quantity of teacher talk. If a teacher’s explanations don’t result in learning then it is going to come down to the quality, not the quantity, of the talk and what is done to reinforce the learning. The great thing about this change is that inspectors can no longer use a subjective impression that the teaching is ineffective to condemn the quantity of talk.

      If there is insufficient teacher talk to pass on the required knowledge/skills guidance then this will be noted.

      It never has been in the past.

      If there is no independent activity in any of a teacher’s lessons this will be noted and if there is independent activity at the expense of learning then this will be noted.

      Why? Why should the former be noted? They are not meant to be critiquing the teaching style.

      If there is too much groupwork this will be not and if there is insufficient groupwork this will be noted.

      And here is where we get to the point where I think you are trying to reframe the debate. That there is such a thing as too much or too little groupwork is precisely want we want OFSTED to be neutral on. The problem is inspectors coming into schools and condemning a lack of groupwork despite the complete lack of evidence that it is necessary to use groupwork to have effective learning. Your phrase above is, while perhaps vague, completely compatible with that same situation.

      I’ll return to this later.


    • I think your interpretation of the changes is biased, and based upon your interpretation and use of the research evidence out there which is often at odds with much of the teaching community.

      Easy to accuse people of bias, harder to show where they are wrong.

      You talk about definitions which I believe is a key issue, but you then explain that your definitions are the correct ones and those of the “trendies” are way off the mark.

      I think it’s more the case that if the debate is going to be had openly, if the use of power is going to be subject to public scrutiny, then words need to be used in ways which can be understood by the uninitiated. This is not about the rightness or wrongness of definitions (after all, dictionaries list all common usages regardless of their merits) but about clarity and precision in argument.

      You talk about Kirschner, whose work on cognitive load is well respected, but only one or two crazy types actually try to minimise learning. Very few teachers at secondary level would use purely discovery approaches or problem based approaches.

      Plenty use techniques based on the belief that less is more, and that it is better not to tell kids things.

      You talk about Ofsted’s war on traditional teaching when I do not think such a thing exists, whereas you really do seem to be at war with what you define as trendies.

      I’m not sure how to respond to something which is so obviously wrong. What more evidence that OFSTED are against traditional teaching could you possibly require?

      Ofsted will continue to make judgements. They will still see too much teacher talk (just as I sometimes see too much teacher talk). Ofsted will still see too much independent activity leading to insufficient learning (just as I sometimes see too much independent activity lead to insufficient learning).

      Then we have a problem. OFSTED need to realise quality is more important than quantity when making judgements. Judgements based on the quantity of activities will lead to a checklist approach that drives out excellence.

      I believe I could make a case for rating almost any lesson into adjacent bands and Ofsted inspectors are probably better at it than I am.

      Feel free to, but I doubt you could do it in a way that commanded the confidence of teachers.

      Giving teachers a fair crack and allowing some professional autonomy is to be celebrated. Talking about waging war on traditional teaching and then suggesting that this war has directly resulted in teachers suffering depression and leaving the profession is for me a step too far from reality and a step too close to a need for followers/views.

      People have left the profession rather than adapt to all the crap. I don’t see how that can be avoided.

      Most teachers I know who have suffered, have suffered as a result of changes to pay and conditions, work load, policies (which have not been responses to Ofsted’s requirements). such as marking and homework policies.

      Are you saying marking and homework policies are not OFSTED driven?


  4. Indeed.

    I think there are times when a lesson would clearly benefit from students sharing information and ideas between themselves instead of between students and teachers.

    Groupwork doesn’t have to be the solution chosen in these circumstances but I find it very useful and very powerful. Often it reaches the parts other strategies cannot reach.

    I would expect feedback to talk about “opportunities for sharing” to be commented and groupwork a posisble solution. There may however be times when groupwork is used but is curtailed to early therefore more would have enabled more learning.

    I do however see where you are coming from and understand fully your point. I don’t believe that “groupwork” should be inlcuded or maximised just for the sake of using groupwork. However 18 years teaching in a range of schools/colleges and different countries tell me that it is usualloy quite obvious where groupwork would be useful and when it would get in the way.

    There are also times there is insufficient teacher talk, insufficient reflection and insufficient assessment.

    I reflect on all of my lessons. Sometimes I feel that the groupwork went on too long. Sometimes is doesnt go well.What is wrong with such a reflection.


    • “I think there are times when a lesson would clearly benefit from students sharing information and ideas between themselves instead of between students and teachers.”

      Can you give any examples?

      I can’t think of a single instance in any maths lesson where the above could ever be true. It is [for all practical purposes] _always_ the case that the teacher (assuming he/she is a proper maths teacher and not a history teacher covering the lesson) knows more than all of the kids put together. There is _never_ a time when students know more or can “share” information about something they are far less expert in than the teacher.

      At _best_ students “sharing information” will not introduce misconceptions and will reliably pass on information the teacher has already given them. At worst, students will embed misconceptions _and_ solve the problem in front of them by chance – which will reinforce the misconception.

      “Groupwork doesn’t have to be the solution chosen in these circumstances but I find it very useful and very powerful. Often it reaches the parts other strategies cannot reach.”

      What parts are they? What parts can [evidence please] be reached with group work that cannot be reached with direct instruction from a subject expert?


      • I think it is good news but the proof will be in the pudding, as it were. If the institution you work for has issues with its data then it will be more of the same and if not, then it won’t.

        “For example, they [inspectors] should not criticise teacher talk for being overlong or bemoan a lack of opportunity for different activities in lessons unless there is unequivocal evidence that this is slowing learning over time”.

        What constitutes unequivocal evidence. Are inspectors going to match success rates with observation grades? What if a particular group has had more than one teacher on a year?

        To be honest I’m all for group work and limited “teacher talk” but a more nuanced approach to observation is good for all.


      • Can’t believe I am going to defend group work, but I have found it useful when dealing with classes who are a bit shy about talking directly to the teacher.

        Strangely enough, this hasn’t arisen often. I’ve actually only seen it in girls’ schools. Might also arise with EAL students.

        Of course, the cases where groupwork might genuinely be useful, outside of learning skills like acting which are usually performed in groups, represent about 0.01% of classes, and yet it is constantly sold as the most effective method of teaching.


  5. I can give lots of examples, but none in maths lessons. I have taught GCSE maths even though I am not a “proper maths teacher” and my students achieved very good results.

    I did say “there are times”. Maybe maths isnt one although I can see times when kids have to apply mathematical concepts to real life when it might be useful to have kids share their ideas on how to tackle the problem.

    In an A2 Economics lesson it can be quite useful for the kids to consider how the thoughts of Hayek, Keynes and Friedman might be applied to an issue and then for them to discuss with me.

    To be honest, I couldn’t really care less whether a maths teacher uses direct instruction with their kids. It seems to me that such an approach would be wholly reasonable much of the time.

    However, despite what maths teachers seem to believe, maths isn’t the only subject taught in most schools. I actually found maths very easy to teach and quite enjoyed it.

    As for your last point. You can try to “tell” a kid what their views on fox hunting should be telling them the various ethical, legal and emotional issues involved but in my world kids have to form their own opinions and values.

    The difference between you and me may be ( and only may be) that I see kids coming to school to be educated, to develop and to learn.

    You may consider that only things that can be taught via direct instruction are approprite for school, but I do not.

    OA sees school as a place to rectify inequality by teaching a fact based curriculum with direct instruction. I see the best way to address inequality is to give kids in state schools the same sort of “education” they would receive in private and independent schools. An education that develops the human being.

    I am not trying to convince you to use “trendy” stuff in maths. I just don’t want you trying to convince me to use all traditional methods in Economics. I imagine a good many English, History, Art, PE etc teachers wish to use the approaches they find work best.


  6. Thanks for the great post.

    I strongly agree with you on the importance of definitions. The lack of understanding of this point has been extremely damaging, particularly in combination with criterion referencing. In the context of MOOCs (which I have been arguing recently are an ed-tech dead end) it now appears that what are *called* Massive Open Online Courses are neither massive, nor open, nor (so their proponents increasingly argue) to be structured as courses. Still the acronym is fiercely defended, like some sort of holy relic, even though no-one is clear what it means.

    On the group-work debate, it seems to me that there is a place for peer-to-peer interaction as a means of scaling the interactivity in which students are engaged, so long as an expert is not available with whom to engage. But it must be done in a way that amplifies rather than replaces the role of the expert teacher. Have a look at Eric Mazur’s peer instruction at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5qRyf34v3Q#t=1562 for an approach to how this might happen.

    I think we need to be careful about falling into a polarised, tribal debate, even though I would agree that the main blame for the existence of such a polarised debate at the moment lies with the “trendies” who have imposed pedagogies on the basis on no good evidence that they work. Even so, I think it might be more productive to focus what appear to me to be the two substantive problems (2 & 3 below), while being patient on account of 1.

    1. Once an orthodoxy has become established, it takes a long time to dislodge it, particularly if there isn’t another clearly identifiable orthodoxy to fly in place of the old one. Institutions are super-tankers and you can’t necessarily accuse the skipper of hypocrisy if he has the helm hard over and the ship is taking some time to come round. If you debunk all the old OFSTED tick-boxes, how are inspectors meant to evaluate lessons without laying themselves open to attack every time?

    2. Good pedagogy is about the sequencing of activities and instruction and therefore good pedagogy is very difficult to perceive in a single lesson observation. And yet inspecting the scheme of work as well as the lesson would impose a significant extra burden on OFSTED. How does OFSTED propose to address that problem (genuine question)?

    3. The most serious problem is that we do not have any clear and timely success criteria or reliable means of evaluating them, particularly as teachers seem to have such an irrational opposition to assessment. So I suspect that when teachers express their delight that they will be allowed to teach how they like *so long as children learn*, everyone is choosing to ignore what is meant to happen, in practical terms, when it is shown by children are not learning, and what is meant by this phrase and how such a verdict will be arrived at. Autonomy only works when there are clear lines of accountability for outcomes, and those lines of accountability are not clear at the moment.

    Maybe the answer is to remove the “outstanding” category altogether. Judge “outstanding” on the basis of outcomes (and work on improving the accuracy, definition and timeliness of our outcome data). The job of OFSTED then becomes more tightly defined as reporting on practice that is clearly unsatisfactory – something that should be easier to establish on the basis of evidence and consensus.

    Crispin.


  7. […] news broken by Andrew Old here and here that Ofsted has updated its lesson observation guidelines is indeed welcome. I feel it vindicates […]


  8. We are in a school that requires Improvement and have been seen four times this term alone. The feedback from inspectors is extremely inconsistent. Without going in to detail, my firm view is that the ofsted inspectors are using the ‘more open guidance’ to say and do whatever they like. It’s clearly an opportunity to move the goal posts wherever they like.


  9. […] Why That OFSTED News Is So Important (teachingbattleground.wordpress.com) […]


  10. “In the last 10 years the practice of teaching kids difficult stuff by 1.explaining it to them.
    2. having them repeat it to you.
    3.write it down competently.
    has gone from ‘a way of teaching’ to ‘reactionary domination that requires eradication’.”

    Isn’t this the problem – this sounds like a recipe for teaching kids to remember stuff rather than learn it. The application and evaluation of knowledge in different contexts was part of my fairly ‘traditional’ education, at least in those subjects where I enjoyed the learning and was changed by it.

    Great that teachers can use the ofsted guidance to argue for their approach in their context in relation to their students, but I’d guess anyone articulating an argument based on these 3 steps would come a cropper.


  11. Having just read John Hattie’s visible learning I think you’re slightly over-stating the case for a certain form of direct instruction.

    Direct Instruction is one good and useful teaching approach but it is not the only one. It can be really useful in certain situations, and I would use it often, but I wouldn’t want to use it when something else might be more effective in a certain situation. Other teaching approaches, such as reciprocal teaching are also shown to be effective, and may be more effective, as are a number of other approaches, like feedback, meta-cognitive strategies, self-verbalising and self-questioning. Personally, I’d want to use a mix of different methods, varying it according to what it is being taught.

    Also, I think it’s really important to define what we mean by direct instruction, which can be useful teaching approach. What some people mean by it is “didactic teacher-led talking from the front” which Hattie argues should not be confused with the direct instruction approach that he shows is effective. His definition of direct instruction does involve independent work (step 7), which can be group work if you want it to be, it also typically involves a ‘hook’ to gain attention, and build commitment and engagement (step 3).

    Therefore I would argue that if Ofsted criticised too much teacher talk, and students being bored, they might be right that it was not effective teaching that they were seeing. It certainly wouldn’t be the Direct Instruction teaching approach outlined in visible learning by John Hattie. But, having not been in the room, it’s hard to know with certainty!


  12. […] in schools. But the impact of Ofsted’s inspection regime also has a negative side, which has been well-documented (by successful mainstream heads, not strugglers, extremists or reactionaries). […]


  13. […] for inspectors were hailed by teacher Andrew Old as a “Christmas miracle“. In a post on his blog Scenes From The Battleground he said he was excited by the strong and abundantly clear […]



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