Has OFSTED Changed Since Last Month?November 27, 2013
Last night I did my regular trawl through recent OFSTED reports. I had written about some reports from early October here, and some from September here. For both of those two previous blogposts I had easily found OFSTED reports which showed a clear bias towards particular types of teaching despite all the claims that there is no preferred OFSTED lesson style. This time, however, looking at late October and early November inspections, I found very few such reports. Most reports were bland, talking about marking and questioning and sometimes differentiation. A few even praised explanations or subject knowledge. The usual condemnations of teacher talk and the constant promotion of “independence” were the exception not the rule.
When I mentioned this on Twitter, some of those who replied to me mentioned recent OFSTED training, which suggested a surprising and dramatic change in approach (by which I mean: doing what Michael Wilshaw says they should do instead of completely ignoring him). I asked one of them to send me a longer description and they sent me this (thanks):
I recently attended some OFSTED inspection skills training run by one of the main OFSTED providers. A big part of the training was watching clips of lessons and grading them. One of the most controversial clips was a KS3 Maths lesson: it was like something out of the Victorian era!
Children sitting in complete silence in rows, all the sums written on the board prior to the lesson, no differentiation whatsoever. The teacher explained the formula, children practised on a mini whiteboard, one child came up to the board to write the answer to the proposed sum then the children had a time limit to complete 20 similar sums, then mark their own answers afterwards. After which the process began again with a slightly harder sum. And was repeated again and again and again. I thought it was a 3/4 borderline; a number of people gave it a 4. The majority of us were gobsmacked when the trainer revealed the lesson was given a ‘2’ because the children’s books demonstrated they were making progress and the teacher spoke to individual students who needed help! If anything, it has given me real confidence to be myself and deliver my normal lessons during an OFSTED inspection. As long as the students are making progress over time and make some in the 20/25 minutes, it apparently doesn’t matter how they do it.
I don’t know how representative this is of other inspection providers, and even when I’ve been cataloguing the worst ideological excesses of OFSTED there have always been those with a different experience. However, this is clearly the best indicator yet that OFSTED no longer see it is as their mission to root out traditional teaching and replace it with chatting in groups. Please feel free to comment if your own experiences confirm or contradict this.