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.



  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. We do not always agree, but credit where credit is due.

    These changes are to be celebrated and if adhered to they will make a big difference to many teachers.

    I have seen a good many bloggers moaning about Ofsted, but there can be little doubt that your lobbying and making public Ofsted’s shortcomings in these areas has been instrumental in achieving these changes. They seem to have even used your phrasing in some cases.

    I saw you talking earlier about how bad a year this has been for you. I hope Ofsted’s reponse goes some way to making your year a little better.

    Enjoy the break and seasons greetings. Have fun.

  3. This is one union rep who will DEFINITELY make sure that everyone in my school is aware of this. Well done Andrew.

  4. Reblogged this on speciallyteaching.

  5. Whilst I think that the usual SMT bad / not SMT good is as completely bonkers as the first time I saw you write it. This is indeed an interesting revision.

    Merry Christmas.

    • When has he ever said that? Read carefully, and you will find plenty of examples of AO praising good SMT practice. His line is that bad SMTs are bad, and are much more harmful that bad teachers, because the harm they can do is far more wide-ranging. Where’s the bonkers in that?

  6. And perhaps Ofsted should remove any videos on the official Ofsted site which show schools they say are ‘outstanding’ with particular types of teaching. Is it really acceptable that Ofsted shows any video footage at all because that may in fact skew or influence what teachers and others ‘think’ Ofsted may want to see during their inspections?

    • Good point.

      I also think that having teachers armed wiith the information will have Ofsted on the back foot.There will still be the Ofsted types who won’t be told and who will still find “unequivocal evidence” and of course there will still be those teachers who drone on and bore the kids half to death but generally this should be liberating for teachers.

      I think, as others have said, it will be interesting to see just how many SMTs are brave enough to run with the new advice and shift their positions and how many stay put as the “fear” makes for easy control.

      • I’m not sure it’s entirely sensible to run completely with the new advice. What happens when the new advice returns to old in a couple of years time as Ofsted changes again (and again, and again etc)? One has to be quite careful. I do agree this is great news and should liberate us to a certain extent, but you cannot go all guns blazing and take apart all the structures that have been set up by SMT.

        • Best bet is to ignore the latest fads/trends and do what you know, deep down, is right.

          If we do what is right (which may vary from class to class, school to school etc.) then kids will get great results and it is those that OFSTED really look at. My experience is that they look at the results and then hunt for evidence to back them up.

          The last inspection we went through they arrived with a clear “Requires Improvement” judgement in mind. We had a long and hard fought battle on day 1 where they were grading lessons very harshly and things were certainly heading for a RI grading but, simultaneously, in the data meeting, were presenting compelling evidence that really we were a “good” school” with just a 1 year blip.

          Suddenly, on day 2, we were asked for a list of our best teachers and they were all observed (and sometimes quite generously) so, miraculously, we came out with good teaching overall.

          The key impact of this new guidance (and congrats to OA for your persistence) will not be on different judgments for schools from OFSTED but rather that teachers of more traditional styles will be freed from SLT insistence to change!

  7. Here’s the new subsidiary guidance, accessible both as a blog and a doc, showing all the changes highlighted: http://www.clerktogovernors.co.uk/ofsteds-subsidiary-guidance-showing-changes-in-january-2014-version/

  8. Reblogged this on David Didau: The Learning Spy.

  9. If many SMTs do just change their approach this will be quite an indictment of the quality of leadership surely. They will have to admit that they have been following Ofsted rather than doing what was best for kids.

    Interesting times.

    • Just as their approach of not doing History, doing History, not doing Mod. Langs., doing Mod Langs., doing BTECs, not doing BTECs, etc, etc shows that they slavishly follow the league tables rather than making informed judgments about which subjects are best for their pupils.

      I always hope for an April Fool announcement about league tables in nose-picking and handstands, just to see how many SMTs have added them to their timetables by April 2nd.

    • Precisely. If there is a complete overhaul in response, then the real problem will not have changed.

  10. Brilliant news. So odd that Wilshaw seems to have control of Ofsted in parts!

  11. Well done sir.

    I for one will be putting this on A3, firing up the laminating machine and putting it on a number of walls within my school.

    I shall be sending a few New Years emails too to brighten a few lives.

    Merry Xmas OA.

  12. […] which have really excited teachers concern teaching styles. Andrew Old has commented on this here. The guidance says that inspectors must not give an impression that Ofstd favours a particular […]

  13. I think this is good news, and I think OA’s thought-provoking blogposts have helped make this happen, especially those where OA marshals damning evidence of Ofsted’s toe-curling partiality towards “trendy” teaching styles.

    Gosh — an organisation (apparently) responding to legitimate, evidence-based criticism…perhaps there is hope for the UK education system yet…

  14. Reblogged this on Clerk to Governors.

  15. The reason that so many SMT members follow like Sheep after every new trend is that they are ill equipped for their role, many having absolutely no management skills or training whatsoever. A good proportion of them have never worked outside education and have no objectivity. It’s time teaching staff got the opportunity to feedback to an external agency on the quality of leadership and management in the school – that would certainly highlight where the weaknesses lie. Not as often at the chalk face as in the offices where the so-called managers are taking decisions – or not!

  16. […] lot of people read my last post about the changes to the OFSTED guidance (11,302 page views at last count). The response to the […]

  17. It is a sad state when SMT has become a dirty word – certainly in the context of responses to this post and to some degree in the post itself.

    STPCD and Appraisal have done little to help matters, but given that a school SMT is focused on improving a school the us and them climate is unfortunate.

    I often wonder how those who advocate this internal confrontation would respond to the question – “How would you do it?” I doubt the answer is ever as simple as people assume.

  18. Congratulations, this is a massive win. It’s an imperfect world, but shouting at it does make a difference, bit by bit.

  19. […] who comments on Ofsted and their work.  I’ll leave you to read the full text of his posts (post 1, post2), but OldAndrew has picked out some very useful information from the recent update to the […]

  20. Reblogged this on Education: the sacred and the profane and commented:
    An interesting post from scenes from the battleground. It will be interesting to see what constitutes “unequivocal evidence”. If nothing else it seems to suggest that OFSTED have as many problems with their observers (inspectors) following a simple set of guidelines, as many schools and colleges.

  21. […] but with updated references to the new documentation. I’m also grateful to @clerktogovernor @oldandrewuk and @5N_Afzal who have brought my attention to the publication of the new documentation and some of […]

  22. […] Old Andrew draws our attention to an apparent turnaround in the Ofsted framework which make them less judgemental of traditional, didactic teaching techniques. […]

  23. […] of them are for the better. The new maths curriculum looks good, but it could have been better. This news from ofsted (via @andrewold) is brilliant, and shows that they feel, as do I, that there is no […]

  24. […] There was a real sense of delight in Andrew Old (@oldandrewuk) blog post, just before Christmas, “A Christmas Miracle – Ofsted Get it Right for Once” […]

  25. […] OFSTED get it right for once (Andrew Old) […]

  26. […] in a way that suits them. I was delighted to read @OldAndrewUK’s recent blog declaring that Ofsted finally […]

  27. […] A Christmas Miracle – OFSTED Get It Right For Once (teachingbattleground.wordpress.com) […]

  28. What about those schools whose data is improving but too slowly for Ofsted and are forever chasing wideing gaps against national – presumably we will still be in the firing line. Am I reading it correctly that we will still be labelled bullied and demoralised and our teaching scrutinised ? Ofsted are a mixed bunch it would seem. I have just missed out on outstanding as two boys talked once and did not complete as much as their neighbours ( maybe five sentences compared to six) and therefore not all learners were working at full potential at all times .

  29. […] As I reported previously, OFSTED changed their inspection guidance on the 23rd December 2013 to make it far clearer that particular types of teaching (particularly reduced teacher talk, “independent” learning or lots of different activities) were no longer required. Obviously, inspections carried out since then won’t have been published, but reports for inspections carried out before Christmas have been published since the guidance changed. You may be wondering if there are any signs of improvement. […]

  30. […] You may (or may not) have seen / heard about the updated Ofsted guidance about the quality of teaching. If you haven’t, then you were probably enjoying your Christmas – please read the post by Old Andrew – ‘A Christmas Miracle – Ofsted Get It Right For Once’ […]

  31. […] of the changes to the handbook for inspectors were hailed by teacher Andrew Old as a “Christmas miracle“. In a post on his blog Scenes From The Battleground he said he was excited by the strong and […]

  32. […] told. I’ll quickly run through the background for anyone new to this blog, or this issue. In December, OFSTED put out guidance […]

  33. […] but with updated references to the new documentation. I’m also grateful to @clerktogovernor @oldandrewuk and @5N_Afzal who have brought my attention to the publication of the new documentation and some of […]

  34. […] Independent learning is something of a hot topic: Go back less that 12 months and it was encouraged (by Ofsted) to form part of every lesson, then the framework changed and suddenly lessons could reflect a greater range of teaching and learning styles. The framework even goes as far as saying that it’s okay for students to sit quietly, as long as they’re still learning. […]

  35. […] were two remarkably popular posts this year. The first, A Christmas Miracle – OFSTED Get It Right For Once, was simply an update on changes in the OFSTED handbook during the Christmas holidays and seemed […]

  36. […] One of the things schools started claiming OFSTED were looking for was differentiation, and in particular, evidence that students were being set different work. In my experience, teachers were encouraged to structure lessons around multiple worksheets to ensure that students were working at different levels within the same class. OFSTED tried to clarify that they did not require this. The following was issued as guidance in December 2013: […]

  37. […] On a previous blog posting, has OFSTED opened pandora’s box, I asked the question of how OFSTED are going to write up reports in the light of their recent advice Scenes From The Battleground particularly: A Christmas Miracle – OFSTED Get It Right For Once. […]

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