New OFSTED Handbook

August 2, 2013

I have just found the latest version of the OFSTED handbook available here.

There are some changes that may reflect recent concerns expressed on this blog and a change in the educational mood. All new additions are highlighted in yellow (according to the site, maintained by Heather Leatt, I linked to above).

We have some acknowledgement that schools may have a very different ethos:

Screenshot 2013-08-02 at 18.27.07

We have clearer statements about what should be expected from teachers in lesson observations, more in tune with what Sir Michael Wilshaw said here (the disparity between Wilshaw’s words and inspectors’ practice I’ve been kicking up a fuss about for several months).

Screenshot 2013-08-02 at 18.36.03

Screenshot 2013-08-02 at 18.37.59

Screenshot 2013-08-02 at 18.39.58

Screenshot 2013-08-02 at 19.09.08

There are several references to “knowledge” as an outcome of schooling. Here is just one example of this:

Screenshot 2013-08-02 at 18.45.47

A similar addition has been made to the grade descriptor for “good”. Outstanding behaviour now involves “a thirst for knowledge”.  Most noticeable of all, this is now part of the descriptors for outstanding teaching:

Screenshot 2013-08-02 at 18.51.36

There are a couple of other things worth mentioning, although I am less sure of what to make of them. There’s a lot of emphasis on judging teaching by student attitude, which is something which strikes me as fair on a whole school level, but unfair if it is used to judge a teacher in a single observation. The one that I really can’t decide is good or bad is this (and similar words in the description of outstanding behaviour):

Screenshot 2013-08-02 at 19.18.16

This is potentially a positive thing in that it can be used to justify whole class teaching in observed lessons. On the other hand, inspectors could now use this to argue that they must see some groupwork to justify describing behaviour as good or outstanding.  There are some subjects where this is likely to happen in almost any school (e.g. drama) so I’m hoping it won’t become an excuse for any further extension of the expectation on the part of inspectors that good teaching involves groupwork in all subjects.

So, overall I’d say an improvement. Whether it will actually change anything on the ground, we will have to see. Please contact me if you get inspected and let me know if you think they are following the new rules.


  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. Reblogged this on thesparrowwhisperer.

  3. Thank you for shedding a fair light on these very important changes.

  4. I’m a bit worried about the first one – it was great news that the Montessori Free School got judged as inadequate because they weren’t doing any actual teaching. What does the document referred to say, does it say that is OK because that’s their ethos?

  5. […] that we do on a day-to-day basis. A few conversations on Twitter and a couple of blogs (especially this one) that I have read recently have prompted me to wonder about the rather strange gap that appears to […]

  6. “…aspects of teaching that are effective…”

    I’m still no clearer on this. It still allows an inspector to make an unsupported subjective judgement. The majority of classroom observations are going to turn on this point and by extension a significant proportion of an overall judgement.
    I read a Noel Gallagher quote about hi brother, describing Liam as “…a man with a fork in a world full of soup.” Not only does this describe some people in education, they seem intent in defending their fork techniques to the death, making more and more elaborate rules instead of accepting that a spoon is appropriate.

  7. […] that we do on a day-to-day basis. A few conversations on Twitter and a couple of blogs (especially this one) that I have read recently have prompted me to wonder about the rather strange gap that appears to […]

  8. Perhaps a naive question. Were there specific references to knowledge in the old handbook?

  9. […] few weeks ago I drew attention to the ever increasing number of statements in the OFSTED handbook about having no one preferred […]

  10. […] to look at recent OFSTED reports. For this reason, it has been very easy for me to check if the new OFSTED handbook has changed the extent to which OFSTED condemn teachers for talking and praise independent work, […]

  11. […] A new handbook in the summer of 2013 made the point about there being no preferred style of teaching even more explicit (described here). […]

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