Just when you think OFSTED have got their act together, the flip cameras are back.

April 9, 2013

I was actually quite impressed to hear that OFSTED have taken action about inspectors who don’t even have QTS status. Obviously, a lot of the worst inspectors do have QTS status, but at least this should decrease the number of inspectors whose only frame of reference is the OFSTED model of what a lesson should look like.

But, just in case it looked like OFSTED was getting back on track, all those good practice videos have turned up again on youtube.

You can find them here.

My explanations of what’s wrong with them can be found here and here. But if you only have time to watch one, then make it this one, and remember “having flip cameras is essential in all English departments”:

What happened? Why are they back? Was Sir Michael Wilshaw on his Easter holidays?


  1. This is easy meat isn’t it? What you are outlining in your blog post, and by implication here, is that Ofsted is suggesting this is an essential, rather than a “good” exemplar. It is merely one small use of teaching resources that can help explore and analyse texts and that is how I “read” this film; I suspect your reading is somewhat different. If you are going to make a transcript of the film then make a transcript of the whole film – in context – not just one sentence. I have found Flip cams to be an invaluable tool in helping boys who find difficulty with writing and redrafting their work especially boys at Key Stage 2 who are resistant to other, more traditional, methods that have failed to work in my particular context and I have taught writing and poetry from KS1 to Adults for over two decades. I have seen hesitant writers become more fluent in a few sessions through use of video as analysis. In the first instance it gives them an objective view of how well they are doing. Used to promote redrafting it enables a learner to wind back and focus on sense and meaning, punctuation, syntax, grammar, spelling and all other mechanistic as well as narrative and higher order skills – i’m sure you can do that with verbal explication in class as well but video does have some qualities that are unique to the medium that help with some students. It is merely another tool and a handy one at that – to be used in a few sessions in a year and not exclusively. This whole blog appears to be a snipe at some aunt sally of your own making and is a distraction from what really matters – Teaching and Learning.

    • Well apart from the obvious stuff like “how did people learn to read and write before flip cameras?” surely we need to be teaching kids how to write without such aids? How illiterate would you have to be to feel the need to film yourself and rewind in order to assess your writing?

      And let’s be clear, OFSTED have put up a video saying flip cameras are “essential”. It also seems pointless to accuse me of not providing the full transcript when I have provided the full video and encouraged people to watch it.

      • ‘Obvious’ is your perception in this instance as flip cameras do exist and people do use them and, in some instances, they do use them to help analyse the process of writing. You may not like it; you may feel it is not pertinent to your teaching style or as effective a technique as explication; reading, traditional analysis but that’s no counter argument, it’s cul-de-sac of an argument or, as Orwell might put it, a Dead End.

        There’s no “surely we should” about it in this case – I’d say “surely not” in my context however I wouldn’t claim it to be a universal panacea or a lesser proces and neither do I think that is the intent of these films. I doubt many teachers will think Flip cams are a universal nostrum and/ or the fact that inspectors would be coming into classes to look for them at every turn. I don’t think you can draw such an inference from the film as you appear to be doing here.

        “How illiterate do you have to be?”

        Really? As I explained it is a diagnostic tool and, again, it has nothing to do with illiteracy or otherwise – it is just another way of teaching and learning. You seem to belittle the process by conflating it with presumed lack of literacy…

        Yes – let’s be clear shall we?

        Ofsted has put up a video with a teacher saying flip cameras are essential not :

        ‘OFSTED have put up a video saying flip cameras are “essential”’.

        A full transcript often brings out a more, or less, nuanced insight.

        • I’m sorry but is there an actual argument in there or are you just ruling all possible alternative arguments out of order?

          As for your argument that Ofsted aren’t wedded to their own “good practice” (sorry, the practice of people who Ofsted have identified as providing good practice), I hope that is true but it is hardly the assumption schools are going to make if they see this video.

          Flip cameras are a gimmick. Whether they can be used in non-gimmicky ways is besides the point, this video has illustrated quite clearly (and without “nuance) that good practice is based on gimmickry not hard work or high standards.

          • Don’t apologise – if it were coherent I’d take it seriously as such.

            You belittle the professional judgement of the teaching population with regard to their reaction to the video. If you constantly want to adopt the mantle of that stance good luck but I suspect people aren’t that naive. When it comes to the interpretation of media – well…

            I prefer to think of Flip cams as tools.

            “Whether they can be used in non-gimmicky ways is besides the point,”

            Again an “argument” based on an unsubstantiated proposition, then a negative conflation and another dead end.

            No, again, not “beside the point”; it is entirely pertinent in this discussion and worth exploring in more depth; with harder work and higher standards too. Admittedly this Ofsted video does not do that effectively and that is why it is easy meat.

            “This video has illustrated quite clearly (and without “nuance) that good practice is based on gimmickry not hard work or high standards.”

            It has merely illustrated that the film crew filmed certain aspects of how they were used at a particular point in time and as part of a continuum of use and the film was edited to show a certain aspect of use.

            Hard work and high standards are not to be set against good practice based on “gimmickry” – it does not follow. And to claim the video as evidence of this is to layer even more prejudice onto the whole venture.

            Whether that use is “best practice” is still up for grabs. Certainly the use within the film touches on elements of an interesting avenue of ways in which to begin more in-depth analysis. Dismissal by negative inference isn’t helpful here.

            The wonderfully illogical, “This video has illustrated..” has done nothing of the sort I’m afraid. We’ll just have to disagree.

            Questioning the media – no – questioning the underlying process or demand more rigour from it – yes.

            • I really am struggling to find an argument in here. You can talk around the video but you still seem to have no plausible argument for reinterpreting the video in the way you want to.

              Without that, any rational person is going to assume that practice which is described favourably in an OFSTED good practice video is what OFSTED (or at least the part of it responsible for making the video) think is good practice. Obviously everything I say is subject to my own biases and prejudices, but to point that out is not in itself a reason to reject my opinion or to reject the obvious interpretation of the video. One can always claim “nuances” or “context” require us to ignore the blatantly obvious (religious fundamentalists do this all the time) but it is never convincing to anyone without a strong motivation to accept the fanciful reinterpretation.

              No amount of waffle (love the phrase “continuum of use” by the way) or red herrings will actually change that. And every time you declare (as if from on high) that an opposing view or argument is a “dead end” then it really gives away the fact that you don’t have any actual counter-argument.

            • Reinterpreting the video in the way I want to? I am merely speculating on the use of video in teaching and learning; the way that is used as a diagnostic: how it is portrayed in this film is of interest but I don’t draw the inferences you do. I think that is the basic thing here.

              Continuum of use – I meant specifically that the video didn’t show the process of use “in real time” with a beginning, a middle and an end; it showed edited highlights. There were specific shots, scenes, interviews and they can be edited to show things in different ways.

              If you are saying that the intent of the video to show “Best Practice” by highlighting “this” specific practice portrayed and highly edited in this specific film then fine.

              But even then I think that anyone with a seriously sceptical bent will not buy this interpretation as “obvious” and I doubt most teachers will interpret the specific use of video (specifically Flip cams) in this video as best practice just because a teacher says they are essential and by association just because it comes from Ofsted that this is best practice and it has been edited in a specific way.

              And even then I suspect Ofsted didn’t edit the video they OK’d it in my experience – a film production company paid to do so did the editing to a client brief. What may be obvious to you is not universally obvious, or indeed the case, I suspect.

              How you choose to interpret the video is up to you but don’t link how the practice is portrayed in the video as anything other than one way the video could be edited. To then link it to methodology and then set that against what you prefer as a teaching style is a bit of dead end really. Personally I think that attitude is encouraging a victim mentality with all this – “This is what Ofsted want you/ would like you/ to do” rather than concentrate on the teaching and learning and the processes involved instead.

              I think that attitude to the video, obviously obvious, is as much a blind as any imagined, reimagined or “actual” intent, fanciful or otherwise.

              Basically I don’t think Ofsted have the nous or the expertise to put over the message you seem intent on railing against. I’m more interested in the uses of video in teaching and learning not in increasingly tortuous interstices of logical argument to prove a point.

              I’m interested in video as a vehicle for all sorts of teaching and learning and not whether Ofsted put out a puff piece or not.

  2. Leon,

    This is not the way to convince me that you are doing something other than trying to conceal a lack of argument in lots of waffle.

    If flip cameras are said to be essential in a video described as showing “good practice” then I’m not sure how it is possible to reach any conclusion other than flip cameras are thought (by those responsible for the video) to be important to good practice. You can call that my “interpretation” as many times as you like, but it’s also the only interpretation that doesn’t defy both reason and common sense. The rest is just hair-splitting and obfuscation.

  3. Jeez you need to sort out your comments CSS script before it becomes single letter responses in my browser!

    I am not obfuscating or hair-splitting but making a reasonable point and you can shout “obfuscation” at me as often as you like. I happen to think the use of flipcam videos are useful in teaching and learning and that this video is a start on documenting that process but it is too light a touch and it is a promotional video not a process one.

    But to then hold it up as the way to do things – not really surely? Because anyone who has done a lot of video work knows that this cannot be easily shown in “short-form” video just as writing and editing cannot be made explicit in a written document documenting the process – although there are pieces of technology that actually do do this now like Primary Pad – http://primarypad.com/.

    Video can be used in very many ways and I laud Ofsted for trying here but a better approach might be :


    because it is a work in progress and not a finished artifact held up as some finished product done and dusted and with all the “loaded” intent that that carries. I keep saying it is one way and I think it is a genuine area for exploration. I don’t think it should be held up for “best practice” – I would rather people be allowed to explore these tools and build expertise if there is an avenue for exploration. So although I may agree it shouldn’t be held up as “best practice” I do not agree it should be set against more traditional ways of teaching and learning because of that.

    I have issues with the way video is used and in what different contexts – obviously but I am most certainly not hair-splitting.

    • Well you certainly seem to be talking at length around the point.

      • I’m writing at length…

  4. forgive me for dipping my toe in here… but..

    “Ofsted has put up a video with a teacher saying flip cameras are essential not :

    ‘OFSTED have put up a video saying flip cameras are “essential”’.”

    That made me giggle. That my friends, is a hair, not so much split, but spliced into a thousand slithers.

    If OFSTED saw fit to show the video as a model of good practice its reasonable to assume they agree with the explicit advice and comments of the people they have identified and lauded as good practitioners..

    They are hardly likely to put up materiel with people saying stuff they disagree with.

    So I haven’t watched the video, but the quote above, suggests to me, that OFSTED think flip cams are ‘essential’.

    I don’t teach English, and I understand its possible to interpret it another way, but only for a minority I would have thought.

  5. I will also dip a toe in here….

    Although I understand what OA is saying and I have some sympathy I believe Leon has made some very valid points. I fear that OA is letting his feelings for Ofsted colour his view of the video and he over eggs the pudding.

    I agree with Leon regarding the difference between the two statements. The teacher clearly thought it was useful to use the flip camera and Ofsted did seem to agree that the approach was in this context useful.

    Leon also believes the use of the flipcam can yield results and I am happy to go with his professional opinion.

    I suspect Ofsted do not think that using a flipcam is essential for all teachers or in all contexts. Maybe it was a daft message to send out but I don’t think Ofsted will downgrade lessons if flipcams are not used but i am sure they will give credit if used to good effect and rightly so.

    I don’t think that Ofsted inspections are necessarily fair and valid. Nor do I think they are necessarily in the best interests of school and/or pupil improvement. I believe the system is flawed and corrupt in all sorts of ways.

    I don’t however think that bemoaning the use of the word “essential” being used in the video really condemns Ofsted and I believe that there will be instances in which flipcams might well add value to the processes of teaching and learning. I believe Leon made these points much more eloquantly that I did.

  6. I myself am ambivalent about OFSTED. I think parents and kids have the right to have their schools inspected.

    But I also recognise how difficult it is to truly judge a school. I don’t envy OFSTED one bit and I suspect they have the best of intentions.

    I have been in schools which were, in my view, overpraised by OFSTED, and again others where harshly judged.

    (Once I taught in a school where OFSTED reported on a subject that the school didnt offer -an odd case to be sure!)

    I rather like Wilshaw (although perhaps a tad too evangelical) and his no- nonsense style and I do think OA has identified a problem whereby the inspectors don’t share Wilshaw’s views about prescribed teaching methods.

    (I myself like strong discipline and a mix of progressive and traditional styles- so I dont mind flip phones personally- if used sparingly)

    If I take your charitable view that it was an inadvertent phrase in the clip (which I cant be bothered to watch tbh) then thats one thing, but the word ‘essential’ was used in an official video during an era when OFSTED have loudly promoted a stricter set of criteria, and thats a pretty unambiguous message for any Head of English imo.

    So if your analysis is right perhaps OFSTED should have a disclaimer at the beginning of every video…

    “OFSTED does not necessarily endorse the methods or views of the practitioners in the clips”

  7. Rob

    Maybe I should be a little clearer. I believe the video shows a school that is sucessful teaching English. The teachers in the video talk very clearly about the use of flip cameras and describe the context in which they use them and the purpose for which they use them.

    They justify the use of flipcams, they seem to be professional educators and they show examples of their use. The purpose of the video is not in my view to suggest that flipcams are essential and in fact this is an almost insignificant part of the video.

    The Head of English describes the department’s efforts and success in engaging students in the material and in the process.

    The video is typical educational dross which is staged for the purpose and the use of flipcams is included. I have worked in schools in which you could’t trust kids to go out of your sight with flipcams and sometimes even to stay within your sight.

    These people are talking about using flipcams to involve students and I believe that this could be a reasonable approach.

    The Head of English does indeed say that she feels that flipcams should be essential in all English Departments and it would seem that this statement is made following the success of the approach in her department.

    This is only one approach that would achieve the same effect, the involvement of the kids in the process.

    I quite understand what OA is saying about the difference between the words of the top man and the deeds of the workforce.

    I personally do not see that the Head of English at this one school expressing a view about the way flipcams could be used in the context she explains somehow points to the sort of calamity that OA points towards.

    I could say that I believe that the Anderson and Krathwohl grid should be used in every classroom and Ofsted might quote me as an example of good practice in that I consider objectives, teaching and assessment when I plan. OA would have a fit.

    Some school’s could not use flipcams for a variety of reasons and any professional educator is likely to see this. Maybe Ofsted were daft to use this video as some people will take the video and misrepresent it as suggesting that flipcams are essential in all English Departments rather than using it to illustrate an example of good practice (which I believe it is).

    I would also very humbly suggest that people should really watch the video before commenting on this thread.

    This school suggest the use of the flipcam to encourage “talk” which they find to be essential to progress in their experience. They seem to agree with you (and me) therefore.

    ps…I do not believe it is difficult to judge a school and I do not believe that schools are always judged with the best of intentions. I don’t believe that to visit a school for a day or two, observe a few lessons, talk to a few people and study some documents is necessarily the best way to diagnose where action is needed to deal with poor performance.

  8. “The Head of English does indeed say that she feels that flip cams should be ESSENTIAL in ALL English Departments”

    (my capitals for emphasis)

    The quote above, from a recently issued OFSTED video, is bound to be influential.

    If I was a Head of English, watching that, with an impending OFSTED inspection, trust me, I would on the phone ordering 120 flipcams for my dept.

    Because another Head of English, specifically picked by OFSTED, has just told me and everyone else, quite clearly, its ESSENTIAL, for ALL English depts.

    Not ‘often useful’ or ‘advisable’ or ‘most depts’ or ‘some depts’.

    You are right that these things are staged- of course they are- so if OFSTED thought the phrase was too strong they would have re-filmed it with a less emphatic phrase like ‘we found flipcams helpful’.

    But they didnt.

    It was in a strong statement in an official video- Im sorry but without disclaimers OFSTED are sending a message there. They design these videos to influence teaching on a national level.

    ps I afraid I have seen too many of these videos and am allergic to them- life is too short- I will take your word for its content.

    pps I personally dont think flipcams are ‘essential’ for anything- I said I didn’t ‘mind’ them (am I the one spilling hairs now?)

    I agree a short visit to a school can be misleading for inspection purposes- but that kinda suggests its not that easy to judge a school.

    Im not saying its impossible, just difficult and should take more time than it currently does – though a longer inspection is costly and more stressful for staff. Catch 22 maybe.

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