In his blog, Scenes from the battleground, Old Andrew is doing some excellent work holding OFSTED to account. Anyone who reads the site will recall the latest advice from OFSTED advising what Inspectors should and should not do (I have re-blogged it below).
I was interested in his analysis of OFSTED reports and decided to have a look at the small number of reports released last week. Sure enough, the reports are full of the type of things OFSTED are now suggesting that Inspectors should not be relying upon to make their judgements. I won’t re-iterate them, there are plenty of examples on Scenes from the battleground.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Inspectors pass their judgements when to a large extent they can no longer rely on the tick box approach that seems to constitute many of the recent reports. Indeed Inspectors are going to have to produce evidence backed up by data or as OFSTED put it, “unequivocal evidence that this (teaching) is showing learning over time”. The cynic might wonder whether observations have any purpose when the underpinning justification will almost certainly be from the data.
HMI Inspector Mary Myatt in her interesting blog suggests that:
Then there are departments which have achieved the same results but where the students have a bigger picture of why they are following the course, how it links to some of the biggest and most important aspects of human experience. These classrooms are alive with debate, respectful disagreement and deep thought alongside a focus on the expectations of the exam. I know where I’d prefer my own children to be. Why shouldn’t all children have a high powered, meaningful engagement with the ‘stuff’ of lesson activities so that they have an ongoing love of learning? And that’s linked to the judgement on behaviour and safety, where there is a renewed focus on behaviour for learning. It’s not possible to gauge any of this from the data.
So, if the purpose of observations is partially to underpin judgements that cannot be made from data then where is the “unequivocal evidence that this is showing learning over time” going to come from? It seems to me unlikely that a school’s quality of teaching needs improving solely because learners aren’t “thinking independently” or “there is too much teacher talk”. When you read OFSTED reports, it is clear that they have adopted a formulaic approach to teaching and learning; the same comments being “trotted” out again and again.
Don’t get me wrong I think OFSTED have taken a step forward with the recent announcement. Reports have to improve, they need to be more forensic and avoid the pointless re-iteration of formulaic content. It will be interesting to see how the inspections carried out in the next few weeks are written up.
I hope there is a marked improvement but my guess is that OFSTED has opened “Pandora’s box” and inspectors are going to have to work a lot harder to justify their judgements.