More OFSTED NonsenseNovember 5, 2013
Just in case you’ve not been keeping up, a quick summary of the developments regarding OFSTED. I’ve been blogging about.
- Michael Wilshaw made a speech in February 2012 claiming there was no OFSTED teaching style and praising a “didactic” maths teacher which was confirmed in a new draft of the OFSTED handbook in summer 2012 which indicated there was no preferred teaching style and said that inspectors would not be looking for “independence” in every lesson (as blogged here).
- He made another speech (which I quoted here) which made the same point and even described a “fairly boring” lesson as “fine”
- A new handbook in the summer of 2013 made the point about there being no preferred style of teaching even more explicit (described here).
- Michael Gove made a speech in the summer (quoted here) which claimed OFSTED would stop its past practices of condemning teacher talk and teachers “dominating the discussion”.
Every so often I have a look as to how this is going by taking a glance through a selection of recent OFSTED reports. Taking some from early October, I haven’t yet found any of the usual complaints about teachers talking too much, but still plenty of trendy nonsense that makes uncomfortable reading for traditional teachers. All of these are from October inspections, the school is identified underneath.
This is a school that requires improvement. It is not good because… Pupils are not consistently given opportunities to work in groups or on their own to lead their own learning…
What does the school need to do to improve further? …a higher proportion of all lessons provide pupils with more opportunities to lead their own learning, individually or in groups.
From St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School (in Stoke-on-Trent)
It is not yet an outstanding school because … In a few lessons, teachers do not get students to work sufficiently independently on engaging activities…
What does the school need to do to improve further? …Raise achievement … by …ensuring students work independently as much as possible on engaging activities…
From Hetton School
This is a school that requires improvement. It is not good because… There is too much teaching which does not allow students to take responsibility for their own learning…
Students are not always given enough chances to take responsibility for their learning by taking part in structured, collaborative activities.
From Millbrook Academy
It is not yet an outstanding school because … Sometimes students’ progress slows because they are not given enough opportunities to learn without the help of the teacher…
What does the school need to do to improve further? … Build on the strengths of teaching, so that more is outstanding, by:
broadening the range of strategies to promote students’ active and independent learning…
Occasionally students are restrained from expressing their curiosity and taking control of their learning because teachers sometime over structure and control the lessons.
From The Greneway School
It is not yet an outstanding school because… Teachers do not always give pupils regular opportunity to plan their own lines of enquiry and to set their own learning challenges. Pupils sometimes wait for the teacher’s direction rather than thinking for themselves how to complete and extend tasks…
What does the school need to do to improve further? Move teaching to outstanding by ensuring that all teachers …give pupils regular opportunities to plan their own lines of enquiry and to decide for themselves how to complete tasks … support pupils in setting challenges for themselves when they finish tasks.
When pupils work on their own, teachers do not always check that they use targets and marking ‘ladders’ to help them improve their learning independently. Sometimes, pupils who finish tasks quickly wait for an adult to give them extra challenges rather than challenging themselves…
Teachers give pupils a clear method of how to complete tasks and so pupils are nearly always successful. However, this sometimes stops pupils from following their own lines of enquiry or thinking of their own methods for solving problems, and so holds back the development of independent learning skills.
From St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School (Telford)
What does the school need to do to improve further? By July 2014, improve teaching and so raise achievement in all subjects so they both become at least good by… helping pupils to use and apply their mathematics skills through solving problems and real-life situations rather than spending long periods of time doing repetitive calculations…
In mathematics, pupils spend long periods of time doing calculations. Sometimes they manage these calculations well, only to be given another batch of simpler calculations to do. This means that pupils are not learning how to use and apply their mathematics skills through problem solving or in real-life situations.
Burton Pidsea Primary School
As ever, OFSTED find time to praise the trendiest possible lesson:
In an English lesson where teaching was excellent, students were asked to work in pairs to mime their interpretation of characters’ motivations in a text. After working out their mimes, they were required to act them out for others in the class to interpret and evaluate. All students progressed well during this process, which both motivated and inspired them to reflect. Final analyses evidenced thoughtful answers which the teacher ably probed through targeted questioning of individual students, enabling them to develop their thinking still further.
The Sir Robert Woodard Academy
And one of the trendiest education fads makes what may be its first appearance in an OFSTED report, and gets the official seal of approval:
The school has the following strengths… Leaders’ approach to developing ‘mindfulness’ is having a positive effect on students’ well-being and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
I don’t want to suggest nobody tells me about more positive experiences with OFSTED, but clearly in many schools the inspectors are still partisan advocates of progressive education condemning those who won’t conform to their ideology and praising those who do.
I spoke too soon on the “teacher talk” aspect. The following comment on another early October inspection was pointed out to me on Twitter:
This is a school that requires improvement. It is not good because… Many teachers take up too much lessons time talking and this leaves too little time for students to complete activities.
From Harper Green School
Although it is noticeable that, unusually, this does not seem to be followed up in the teaching and learning section of the report. However, this section does include another example of what might be studied in an OFSTED approved English lesson:
When teaching is good however, tasks and activities are planned in suitable steps so their understanding and knowledge are steadily developed. … In a Year 10 English lesson, for example, the teacher probed students’ answers to make sure they could identify sophisticated dynamics in a conversation with Alan Sugar in The Apprentice.