Archive for the ‘Of Interest’ Category


My Article About OFSTED on the NUT Website

March 5, 2014

I have written the following article about OFSTED for the Expert View section of the National Union of Teachers website:

The Ongoing Saga of the Ofsted Teaching Style


A Christmas Miracle – OFSTED Get It Right For Once

December 23, 2013

Thanks to @ClerktoGovernor for being the first to point this out to me.

OFSTED published their Subsidiary guidance supporting the inspection of maintained schools and academies today. This is the section on teaching (points 64-67):

Inspectors must not give the impression that Ofsted favours a particular teaching style. Moreover, they must not inspect or report in a way that is not stipulated in the framework, handbook or guidance. For example, they 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. 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. Do not expect to see ‘independent learning’ in all lessons and do not make the assumption that this is always necessary or desirable. 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.

When in lessons, also remember that we are gathering evidence about a variety of aspects of provision and outcomes. We are not simply observing the features of the lesson but we are gathering evidence about a range of issues through observation in a lesson. Do not focus on the lesson structure at the expense of its content or the wide range of other evidence about how well children are learning in the school.

When giving feedback, inspectors must not argue that they are unable to give a particular grade because of the time spent in the lesson.

Inspectors must not aggregate the grades given for teaching is a formulaic or simplistic way in order to evaluate its quality overall.

This isn’t even half-hearted or ambiguous. This is exactly what I wanted to see.

Thank you, OFSTED.

Now, the task for those of us in schools is to make sure this is shown to every SMT type, every consultant and every person with “teaching and learning” in their job description and that no inspector gets into a classroom without confirming that they are aware of this section of the guidance. Every union rep should be making sure that this is known to everyone carrying out lesson observations of your members. Every governor needs to make certain it’s reflected in their school’s teaching and learning policy. This is as good a protection as we’ve ever had. Don’t let it be ignored.

Merry Christmas.

Update 30/12/2013: I have written an analysis of why this is such an important change, in light of previous issues raised on this blog, here.


Whatever Happened to…?

December 17, 2013

The following blogs were started this year. apparently written by people either starting teacher training or their NQT year:

Obviously this is a busy time of year; some have only ceased posting 3 or 4 weeks ago, and some were never very prolific anyway. I know a few are on Twitter, apparently still teaching and may even plan to blog again. But just to reassure everyone that you are all still with the profession, it would be good to hear from you, preferably in the form of a new blogpost before next term saying how you’ve got on this term.

Update 19/12/2013: School Direct Trainee Blog and KATEELIZABETH93 have blogged.

Update 20/12/2013: I missed this on the 18/12/2013 because the name’s changed, but the first of the 12 to blog was actually SaysMiss, formerly KATSCRAP’S BLOG.

Update 24/12/2013: Bex Trex …to teaching! has blogged.

Update 25/12/2013: TO TEACH IS TO INSPIRE has blogged.

Update 14/1/2014: The Miss Georgiou blog no longer exists, but the posts now appear on a new blog with greater anonymity. For obvious reasons I won’t provide a link.

Update 17/1/2014: FIRSTDAYATSCHOOL has now blogged.


Edublog Awards 2013

December 7, 2013

I have been nominated in the “Lifetime Achievement” Category in the Edublog awards. If you have a Twitter or Facebook login you should be able to vote below or by following the link.

Lifetime Achievement 2013 – Edublog Awards

View more lists from Edublogs
You might also want to consider voting for:

How I think we should be held to account? (not by OFSTED)

November 23, 2013


Excellent stuff about OFSTED from Stuart Lock. Also worth promoting and on a similar theme is this post by Katie Ashford:

Originally posted on Mr Lock's Weblog:

How would I like schools to be held to account?

I thought I’d write this today after a conversation on twitter. I’m aware it’s very secondary centred. By “very” I mean “completely”.

Tristram Hunt has said that OFSTED is essential. He counterposed the existence of OFSTED with low standards. This disappoints me as I am becoming persuaded that this particular form of accountability is substandard at best, and actively damaging at worst.

I retweeted a blog that criticised Hunt for this today and had a few responses, one of which suggested “being anti-OFSTED is not a credible position for a school leader”. Since I consider myself to be anti-OFSTED, I hold what at least one person considers to be a position that lacks credibility. So I want to explore why I’m anti-OFSTED and consider what level and form of accountability I would welcome.

One of the main reasons for having…

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No OFSTED Hope From Tristram Hunt

November 22, 2013

I have been sent an audio file from  a meeting last night at Warwick University, where Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, was asked about OFSTED by a very perceptive first year undergraduate student. The full file can be found at the bottom of the post (apologies for poor sound quality) but here is a transcription of the key part:

Questioner: I know you mentioned a lot about teacher quality, but I was interested in how that kind of relates into the whole process of OFSTED and OFSTED inspections. For example, in my case I went to one of the worst schools in the country and one of the worst places to go to school in the country. The Isle of Wight is synonymous with just worry…

TH: Where did you go to school in the Isle of Wight?

Q: Sandown Bay Academy. It’s the one recently that our headteacher had been working in another school for two weeks and had not let anyone know, but our school’s in special measures and, towards the end of last year especially, we seemed to have OFSTED in every other week and I found especially with our teachers – and this was you know towards my A-level, A2, exams – our teachers would be more focused on making sure that – with the whole idea of OFSTED coming in – they would be more focused on making sure they looked good rather than actually focused on teaching and I found it to be quite obstructive for us, especially when we were learning, that teachers would get so worked up about OFSTED and so occupied by making sure they, you know, didn’t do really small, you know, ticking boxes sort of thing. How would you address OFSTED in special measures schools and would you make it more frequent? Would you allow schools not to have … [inaudible]?

TH: And did OFSTED fail the school?

Q: It’s in special measures. It’s like…

TH: So your teachers are getting ready for an OFSTED inspection by making sure they look good?

Q: The teachers would be, not so much that they looked good, but like they’d be making sure they had to tick boxes and stuff.

TH: And the response of OFSTED was to put them into special measures?

Q: No, OFSTED would, for example, we’d have have our teachers logging lesson plans for example. They’d be making sure they ticked boxes…

TH: It seems to me OFSTED called it right. If you’ve got teachers not focused on teaching and worrying about boxticking OFSTED actually goes…

Q: Our school went up. After the inspection our school went up because they ticked the boxes.

TH: That’s not good, I won’t pursue that line of analysis. OFSTED is very, very valuable and no one likes being inspected by OFSTED but if you are a school and you are inspected by OFSTED and you’re outstanding you put a big, bloody flag outside your school saying outstanding by OFSTED and suddenly Ofsted is good. So we need OFSTED.  I think Michael Wilshaw was a great headmaster and I think he doesn’t accept the excuses and he certainly shouldn’t accept any excuses in the Isle of Wight which, you know, has a lot more advantages than other parts of the country about the terrible schools and as a challenging school system. So, what OFSTED needs to do, and it is doing more of, is not only just going in to tell a school it is doing badly but begin to work out how it gets out of doing badly and how it works for its students and to have that more sort of collaborative process. It needs to be more regional. It needs to have more understanding of regional sensibilities. There’s an argument for the time at which it goes into schools. Should it do two days? Should it do three days? All of that I think can be discussed, but we need OFSTED and, you know, we cannot be on the side of poor standards. We just cannot be on the side of low standards because the truth of the matter is, and I don’t know your background, but if you are from a nice middle class household, a household with books in or from a learning environment, and you’ve got a bad teacher, you know, it’s going to be bad for you but it’s going to be an awful lot worse for a kid from a disadvantaged household. This is their chance. So we cannot be on the side of poor teaching and we cannot be on the side of bad teachers because it impacts far more upon the pupils we and our party work to support and the people who I represent. You lose more as a kid from a disadvantaged background with a bad teacher than you do from a well supported background and if OFSTED is rooting out those levels of poor attainment and poor teaching then we have to be on their side.

So it looks like Labour’s education spokesman is convinced OFSTED support high standards despite being directly told, by somebody who has experienced them, that they actually promote mindless box-ticking . Even Gove has been more critical of OFSTED’s behaviour than this. Labour urgently needs to stop accepting parts of the education establishment at face value and ask if OFSTED really is fit for purpose.


OFSTED: Smoke and Mirrors and Malevolent Magic

November 9, 2013


Update 10/11/2013: I reblogged this yesterday because I thought it was a really good description of the OFSTED inspired observation culture in schools. However, within that same weekend there were another two really interesting blogposts also describing those experiences. Rather than overdoing the reblogging I thought I’d add the links here:

From BigkidMy experiences of Mocksteds

From Joe KirbyWho says knowledge is pointless in English?

If anyone writes another description of observation nonsense in the next few days I will add it here.

From Thomas Starkey:  Judgement

Originally posted on cazzypotsblog:


‘Every damn thing we’ve talked about at school this week has been driven by Ofsted, and not by the need to educate children effectively’  @cbradbee tweeted last Wednesday.

Even in so few words, the distress and despair of this teacher is palpable. The fact that the OFSTED obsession is interfering with, and often hindering, the effective education of the children is a sad reflection of the times we live in. No surprise, then, that this tweet also summarises the entire ethos and philosophy of schools like mine.

Absolutely everything we do, nowadays, is driven by what our SLT team expect that OFSTED will be looking for. Much tea-leaf-poring has now been distilled into a list of lesson ‘requirements’ which is, I believe, based largely on the OFSTED lesson observation criteria. Lesson perfection; lesson utopia.

And yet. There are those who profoundly disagree. According to a BBC News report (13…

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Hannah Arendt

September 9, 2013

I recently learnt on Twitter (from @Melissa_Benn as it happens) that there is a film due to be released in the UK later this month about the philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt.

The trailer below actually makes it look pretty terrible:


Regardless, any excuse is worth it to draw people’s attention to Arendt’s wonderful essay “The Crisis in Education”, a copy of which can be found here. Although written over 50 years ago about American education, it applies perfectly to contemporary education debate and in particular its analysis of the ideology of progressive education has never been beaten.

What proves that it is particularly insightful is the prediction that, despite a backlash at the time, progressive education would not disappear:

 …wherever the crisis has occurred in the modern world, one cannot simply go on nor yet simply turn back. Such a reversal will never bring us anywhere except to the same situation out of which the crisis has just arisen. The return would simply be a repeat performance–though perhaps different in form, since there are no limits to the possibilities of nonsense and capricious notions that can be decked out as the last word in science

This is something I think of whenever I hear yet another elaborate justification based on technology, social theories or neuroscience for the same practices that have already done decades of harm. If you haven’t already read it, please find the time.


The Government Should Listen to Teachers. And By “Teachers”, I Mean “Me”

May 22, 2013

Gove mentioned me again. Last week, in this debate with one of my political heroes, Lord Glasman, he said:

It is also the case as well, that even though there are people within the teaching unions who have a range of views about the reforms we are making, it is also the case that increasingly teachers are making themselves heard in the debate about our reforms – pro and anti – and individual teachers and groups of teachers are shaping the debate. Those who follow the education debate will know that on the blogosphere it is often the case that there are teachers like Andrew Old, or Tom Bennett, who are actually the most articulate and effective supporters of some of the things we are doing, far more effective and articulate than I am.

I’m not sure I particularly appreciate this description. I hardly agree with Gove on everything.

Anyway, the novelty of being mentioned by the secretary of state has worn off. I will add any future mentions below rather than keep blogging every time it happens. However, I will continue to be amused every time it is claimed that Gove doesn’t listen to teachers. He certainly appears to listen to me a lot more than my SMT do. But, of course, when people complain that Gove doesn’t listen to teachers they don’t mean teachers in general, they mean the education establishment (often managers or non-teachers) rather than actual classroom teachers.

This brings me on to my latest endeavour. After talking to a few of my fellow education bloggers, I have set up another blog to promote the views of those education bloggers who do not simply follow the views that are attributed to “teachers” by the media. In protest at so much of the education debate simply being about people who agree with each other simply confirming each other’s opinions, I have set up my own Echo Chamber for reblogging the views of my favourite bloggers and, indeed, any blogger who takes the time to about education from a perspective that doesn’t normally appear in the media as what “teachers” think. I hope you can take the time to look at it, and follow the Twitter account. Personally, I feel we are entering something of a golden age of education blogging and this will be a good way to keep up.

Update 23/6/2013: On Friday, while being interviewed by David Aaronovitch on stage at the Wellington Festival of Education, Gove mentioned me again:

… over the course of, I think, the last two or three years it’s been the case that there has been an emerging part of the education debate which I think has been suppressed for a long time and that’s the part of the debate where you have teachers – serving teachers – who feel that the sort of Rousseau-Dewey model has let children down. And there are people who will be speaking at this conference like Daisy Christodoulou; there are people who blog regularly,  like the teacher who blogs under the name Andrew Old; like John Blake the leader of Labour teachers, all of whom take the view that there was a wrong turning in education and that wrong turning was the dethroning of knowledge; the undermining of schools as an academic institution and that has actually impeded social mobility. So those people, even though they tended to have been eclipsed from the education debate, they weren’t the sort of people who in the past were  invited to  speak at festivals like this or to write for the TES, but they are now, as it were, an emerging and more powerful and, to my mind, more persuasive voice in the education debate. Of course, all the people I have mentioned are impeccably polite but they do have strong feelings about the mistakes that have been made by the other side in the debate.

It can be downloaded here (thanks). He may have mentioned another blogger in passing later on.

Update 5/9/2013: More evidence today in a speech to Policy Exchange.

This section may well be based on material brought to light by the last part of this blogpost (which was also the source of the Mr Men story):

Another teacher records a lesson for A level English students in which they were asked to depict literary characters on a paper plate – drawing a face on the plate – and then asked to use stickers to define the character’s principal traits – pinning the stickers on their clothes and mingling with other students, while they introduce themselves ‘in character’.

Even if that wasn’t the case, I am also mentioned explicitly a couple of times. There is this in a section on teaching:

Which is why it is so encouraging that a growing number of teachers – indeed the most popular teachers on the web, like Andrew Old, whose blog has received more than 600,000 hits; Tom Bennett, with almost eight and a half thousand followers on Twitter, and Joe Kirby, with almost 2,000 – are arguing for a restoration of knowledge and direct instruction; in short, standing up for the importance of teaching.

However, the following is the best bit. This is what makes blogging worthwhile:

…Ofsted’s guidance provided too little clarity about what constituted good teaching; or allowed inspectors’ personal prejudices and preferences to be interpreted as ‘the Ofsted way’.

As a result, and as teacher bloggers like Andrew Old have chronicled, time and again too much emphasis was given to particular practices like group work and discovery learning; while Ofsted inspectors marked teachers down for such heinous crimes as ‘talking too much’, ‘telling pupils things’ or ‘dominating the discussion’.

The good news is that Ofsted - under its inspirational new leadership – is moving to address all these weaknesses and give us a system of inspection of which we can be proud.

Update 6/2/2014: I was mentioned again by Mr Gove in this podcast on the Telegraph website. He said:

And surprisingly, many of the people who are most enthusiastic about what we are doing are not traditional Tory voters. If you look on the blogosphere and look at someone like Andrew Old, or if you consider the work of someone like John Blake, they are out and proud Labour Party activists who still believe that the emphasis that we are placing on better behaviour, strong discipline, a knowledge-based curriculum, rigour in traditional subjects, these are things that they believe in. And I think it is striking, actually, that it will often be people on what you might call the traditional wing of the Labour Party who are supportive of what we are doing because they recognise how, in the past, the ambitions of working class parents for their children have often suffered from middle class liberal condescension.

Which is basically true, but makes me feel taken for granted. After all, I may believe in those things, but it doesn’t mean I have limitless confidence in Mr Gove’s ability to deliver them.


Where did Michael Gove find that Mr Men Story?

May 15, 2013

In case you hadn’t heard, when Michael Gove was asked about the research for his Mr Men speech by the education select committee he said that:

The specific reference to a Mr Men lesson plan came from a blog by a teacher who writes under the pseudonym Andrew Old, a Labour party supporter as it happens but also a very informative voice in the education debate. Of course just because something appears on a blogpost, even if it is by a well-respected individual, you check. I visited the original site and I saw the material and was actually surprised by it.

Thanks to the friendly journalist (you know who you are) who transcribed it for me, and the whole exchange can be found here at about 5 or 6 minutes in (I can’t be more precise as I can’t play it on my Chromebook).

I really can’t figure out why people say he never listens to teachers…


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