I saw this article by R Vaughan on the TES website today Ofsted Scraps Grades for Individual Lessons and thought it may be worth sharing here. The relevant area of the Ofsted Inspection Handbook Revised July 2014 starts on page 57 of the PDF which clicking on that link will take you to.
It doesn’t mean that inspection of individual lessons will cease, as in observations of teaching and learning but the grade given for quality of teaching will not be based purely on such observations and will take into account a range of factors. I’m not sure what that will mean for teachers, I’ve heard teachers describe themselves as “Ofsted grade 1” or “Ofsted outstanding” I guess that might still stand but will be based on more than the classroom performance, on that time, at that date with those students in that room.
This is something I imagine will be welcomed by teachers as often there is a pressure to ensure that as many of the tick boxes as possible are checked during an observation when sometimes some of the tick boxes really don’t fit with what you’re trying to achieve. It’s almost like fitting pieces of the wrong jigsaw into a puzzle because you have to.
As a PGCE student having frequent observations there might be pressure to address development points from the last observation when really the lesson you would like to deliver (or would deliver if not being observed) doesn’t really allow for those development points to be addressed but you feel pressured to somehow make sure they are covered anyway. This kind of doing for doings sake might actually detract from the quality of the lesson as you sit planning stressing about how you can possibly fit in a small group activity when the lesson requires whole group participation or individual work as a more effective way of achieving your learning outcomes.
The other thing which the author points out is that this will be good news for teachers who have a bad day or for reasons beyond their control find their teaching graded at a 3 or 4 whilst not leaving space for poor quality teaching to slip under the radar.
If ever I become a career teacher (still no sign of the official pass with the PGCE) I think this might be good news and indicative of a more holistic view of the quality of teaching taking place.
An interesting and related article was published in The Guardian earlier this month by Jayne Stigger suggests that Replacing Ofsted would improve the quality of provision in colleges. It’s an interesting article which suggests that the schools inspection pro forma is not appropriate for FE and that a peer review system would be far more effective. In that it would be led by teachers who are familiar with subjects essentially observing how their subject is delivered in other institutions in a more longitudinal time frame rather than as a snapshot. They carry out such peer reviews in terms of health services within the NHS and they are quite effective in that the people inspecting are fully conversant with the specialism being inspected and are aware of potential challenges, pitfalls and opportunities. They are also able to identify good practice whilst developing a more realistic and holistic view of the current delivery and are better suited to developing, or assisting in the development of more realistic, useful recommendations for improvement. It also allows for best practice to be shared in a more constructive manner. To what extent it works in the NHS is open for dispute, I know I’ve recently seen an initiative I developed a number of years ago be approved for national roll out and the awareness of that initiative came from a peer review system so I can definitely see that it can work. So why not in teaching? If it is done well and with the best of wills and embraced as an opportunity to improve rather than seen as a negative, critical audit of what is already being done then maybe it could have legs.