The OFSTED Teaching Style R.I.P. (Part One)September 18, 2015
I can’t resist passing on Sir Michael Wilshaw’s latest denial of the existence of an OFSTED teaching style as it seems particularly clear. The chief inspector appeared before the education committee of the House Of Commons on Wednesday, and was quizzed by Suella Fernandes, MP for Fareham (who I believe was chair of governors at Michaela Community School).
Suella Fernandes: Very quickly, just in terms of inspection. The guidance from Ofsted states that there is no preferred Ofsted teaching style. Do you agree that that is the case?
Sir Michael Wilshaw: Yes.
Suella Fernandes: There are different teaching styles that we have seen. There is more progressive teaching—with child-centred, facilitating, group work, a bit more independent learning—and, on the other hand, there is more traditional teaching, of a teacher standing at the front and desks in the row, and teachers giving out information. Do you honestly think that inspectors do judge teaching method fairly and not prefer a more progressive child-centred teaching style in schools?
Sir Michael Wilshaw: Inspectors admire the 1960s ideology? No. If we have any inspectors who prefer one style of teaching over another, where they see little or no impact? The important thing is impact, as far as we are concerned, the impact of teaching on progress and outcome. If you are saying to me, “Do we have an inspection workforce that prefers group work and uses the phrase “independent learning” more often than they should?” then, no, we don’t. If they did exist, they have been removed from the inspection workforce.
Suella Fernandes: Because, looking at Ofsted reports, it is clear there is a trend that favourable reports do praise independent learning and critical reports tend to criticise more traditional styles of education. There was a book recently written a few years ago by Daisy Christodoulou—“Seven Myths of Education”—and she is an expert in teaching and curriculum and an experienced teacher herself. She had 228 best practice Ofsted lessons set out. None of them were based on a traditional teaching method and were all along the lines of progressive child-centred, facilitating, more children teaching each other, progressive learning styles. The facts suggest otherwise, don’t they?
Sir Michael Wilshaw: If that was a culture that predominated in Ofsted years ago, we have changed it. We have changed it. I have made it my mission as chief inspector to change it. I want inspectors to see what impact teaching is having. If you have somebody standing out in front of the class and teaching well in a very didactic way but it is making a difference and children are learning, that is fine. If somebody is standing up in front of a class and lecturing children and they are not engaged, then that is not fine. If we are seeing group work, which is producing good outcomes—the best teacher I have ever seen in East London used to jump on her desk and teach from the desk and teach groups of children. The big issue for her was when she said, “Stop” the children stopped. She was very interventionist and because the school was a good one—the one I led—the discipline was so good that the children obeyed the teacher. The disciplinary structure supported the teacher. That is the issue. If any inspector at Ofsted favours one particular teaching style over another, they will not last long in our organisation.
Suella Fernandes: I urge you to look at the—I am sure you do, but—
Sir Michael Wilshaw: I know it is a big issue and it is a political issue. That may have been the case with a few inspectors years ago but is certainly not the case now. If I found any inspector that preferred one teaching style over another, they would not last long.
Please let me know if you have experienced something different.