My Article About OFSTED on the NUT Website

March 5, 2014

I have written the following article about OFSTED for the Expert View section of the National Union of Teachers website:

The Ongoing Saga of the Ofsted Teaching Style


  1. It’s a very good article for summarising recent developments to date – and I’ve now added it to the thread below on my PI message forum.
    Thank you so much for all your very hard work over this issue.
    I visit far too many schools where misery abounds because of the harsh realities of the format of Ofsted inspection – far too much dread, fallout, uncertainty and disruption to school and home life for communities, pupils and children. It is not acceptable.
    I, too, think that there is no responsibility for this – in fact, I see Ofsted as a completely unaccountable body – and I see in the teaching profession generally, no mechanism for ‘upwards accountability, that is, being able to hold people with any degree of apparent ‘authority’ to account. Things need to change.

  2. Excellent article. Teachers are caught in a real catch-22 situation here. On the one hand, they are criticised and bullied if they don’t produce excellent results; on the other they are humiliated and penalised for using the only methods that (often) can possibly produce such results!
    Heads they lose, tails no one (except Ofsted) wins.

  3. The pupil premium thing is shocking but not unexpected. I am a head in a Tower Hamlets primary so we have the reverse proportion of pupil premium to non pupil premium. (80%:20%in the last year 6 cohort). Added to this very small cohorts- each child is 5% …..as we like to joke……..every child really matters.
    Last year I has 4 very able mathematicians, 3pp, 1 non pp. So I seriously asked myself if I should enter the npp child for level 6, lest he distort our results. The way raiseonline credits a level 6 exacerbates this. Say I reckon a child is borderline 5a/6c, if they do the level 6 test and pass, they get credited with a flat level 6 – which of course means a 6B, even if they scrape into 6 by the skin of their teeth. Conversely, if they don’t sit the level 6 paper, they will probably only achieve 5B because it only takes a couple of silly mistakes to drop to 5B, the bands at the top end being so narrow. (These kids were regularly getting level 7 on old ks3 maths sats papers, but then a 5B in mock ks2 ones). So that’s a difference of 6 aps which is massive in a small cohort. (Remember there are only 4 npp students).
    Anyway, I do the decent thing and enter them all. They should all get it but on the day the two pp girls get nervous and miss level 6 by about 5 marks. The pp boy misses it by 1 mark. Npp boy achieves level 6 by a few marks. He gets credited 6B, they get 5B in their other papers.
    Non pp boy got 2A in ks1 so therefore has made a wapping 20 points progress- well done him ( and us). However, this pulls the average progress score for npp through the roof. By way of contrast, our pp progress, while higher than the progress of both pop and npp pupils nationally is 3 points lower. I ask an ofsted inspector I know if that might be a problem. She said yes! ( we got 100% level 4′s across the board and 65% level 5 maths and 85% level 5 reading……but it might be a problem!,)
    Anyway, when ofsted actually did come for real, they did take a sensible view about this. ( Sorry for the anti-climax!). But would a different team? The deadline for selecting who will be entered for level 6 draws near…….same quandary. Particularly when the type of middle class parent who opt to send their child to a real inner city school with high deprivation are so lovely and educationally supportive and have very high achieving children. Should we be having quiet chats with them and explaining that while their child could get a level 6, we can’t enter them as they are a statistical liability? Let’s hope whatever accountability system they come up with post levels gets rid of these anomalies.
    My husband was at a conference yesterday with ofsted’s top maths bod speaking, and she was saying stuff that seemed to be all in favour of grading lessons. However he’s still snoring so may post later when I can get him to clarify what was said.

  4. At a conference on Friday, Jane Jones (ofsted maths lead) shared these grade descriptors for the quality of teaching in maths. I am only going to quote from the ‘requires improvement’ box. Personally I mainly agree with them, but it wonder how, given the variability in Ofsted teams ( and if these blogs are to be believed, SMT’s) they might be interpreted on the ground.
    The preamble states – and she made a point of emphasising this- if any of the following are judged to be a feature of learning over time, then the teaching of maths as a whole requires improvement
    * teaching focuses on pupils replicating techniques, and presents mathematics as a disparate set of skills and knowledge, resulting in a lack of adequate breadth and depth of learning over time
    * teaching gives too few opportunities for problem solving, investigation or discussion
    *teachers are not able to engage pupils’ interest in the subject and do not monitor their progress adequately.
    *Weaknesses and gaps in the teachers’s knowledge of mathematics or how pupils learn the subject [whose judgement call is this! I wonder] ,the choice of resources or the quality of teacher’s explanations so that pupils make too little progress.
    *Teaching provides too narrow a view of the subject, isolating it from other subjects and the outside world.
    *Marking is too irregular, inaccurate or unhelpful to pupils.
    This was dated December 2013
    I would have though points two, three and four could, in some hands, lead to expecting to see a certain way of teaching. What do others think?

  5. Reblogged this on misssherwood and commented:
    My current area of interest is the extent to which the success of an inspection of T&L, rests on how up to date leadership are with the conflicted messages emerging from Ofsted. Lots of anecdotal evidence that there are lots of inspectors out there, still happy to judge 20 mins rather than the learning as a whole. It has never been more important for leadership to be absolutely up to date and able to point inspectors in the right direction if needs be!

  6. […] OFSTED inspectors looking for group work or marking lessons down for being too teacher-led (e.g here and here). Neither of these would seem to relate to strong research evidence around […]

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