Notes on the new Ofsted framework: how to be outstanding

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This post features on The Guardian Teacher Network (19.11.12) here. “Notes on the new Ofsted framework: how to be outstanding.” Ross Morrison McGill has been looking at the new Ofsted framework and what teachers need to be aware of before the inspector calls…

Teaching primary
Wondering how the new Ofsted framework will affect you in the classroom? Photograph: Suki Dhanda

“I’ve recently been working with the magnificent @HeatherLeatt who has been apportioned with the task of training all of our teaching staff through the new Ofsted framework. Alongside the goalpost changes (this is the only political reference in the article) we have identified our own priorities in the classroom for the school. On the whole, these are consistently the same year-on-year with a few coming and going according to a changing environment. So, no real surprises.

However, with the latest framework, probably just like everyone else, we are all now redefining what is ‘outstanding’ according to the new framework. We have championed strategies that encourage sharing of good practice and are ever-increasingly popular through online forums that I network with. From simple concepts such as ‘open-classrooms‘; assessment for learning questioning that can pose, pause, pounce and bounce the answers out of your students; learning walks and literacy CPD sessions with inspiring ideas from @LearningSpy, @SophieHalaka and @PhilBeadle to name a few. This aside, we are now moving to the next level and part of the new framework insinuates what we may get up to.

So, if you are a teacher and unfamiliar with the headline Ofsted changes that affect you directly in the classroom, using what knowledge I have, allow me to share with you some of the latest Ofsted gems.


Firstly, a school cannot be outstanding with good teaching alone. We are simply in it together. At the break of dawn when inspectors arrive, at the end of the second day, they do not simply count up the proportion of outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate lessons to arrive at the overall judgement for teaching. Inspectors will judge the quality of teaching over time and compare their lesson observation judgements on teachers against those of the school. The judgement on the quality of teaching must take account of evidence of pupils’ learning and progress over time.

It is therefore vital that your school, at every level, has accurate systems and procedures in place for supporting staff and developing them to make accurate assessments of lessons, regardless of grading, which ensures feedback puts in place relevant CPD for that individual. Inspectors will ask the school to provide its own records of observations, so that inspectors can see if the inspection judgements are in line with the school’s own judgements. This must be accurate.


At a classroom level, many of you will be surprised to hear that inspectors do not expect to see a lesson plan, but wait for it; expect to see a well-planned lesson that enables all pupils to learn and make progress. It took me quite some time to figure this enigma out too. Basically, don’t waste your time over planning and filling out school-proformas; keep up the day-to-day routines in the classroom and when the hour itself calls, evidence of preparation is what they will see.

Lesson planning

Subsequently, when you are actually mentally planning what to do, inspectors do not expect to see three or four-part lessons with starters and plenaries anymore. Didactic teaching will not necessarily lead to a judgement of inadequate (did you fall off your chair when you read that?) and furthermore, the word ‘differentiation’ is rarely used. Note, you would be foolish to disregard the Shangri-la utopia that “all students make significant progress,” so do keep it in mind. Teachers are required to meet the individual needs of all the pupils they teach, so the need for effective differentiation is obvious and inspectors will look for evidence of this during observations. If you are an outstanding practitioner, planning will be evident in student outcomes, but you may want to read this paragraph again.

Literacy and numeracy

If literacy and/or numeracy are not well supported in a lesson, it is likely to be judged inadequate. It is the duty of every teacher, regardless of the subject they teach, to promote high standards of literacy; so do make sure you check the three Rs in your teaching and assessment. This is taken directly from the Teachers’ Standards: “Demonstrate an understanding of and take responsibility for promoting high standards of literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English, whatever the teacher’s specialist subject.”


Only set homework if it is appropriate to the learning needs of the students. If your school does not have a homework policy, then this will probably make your decision to set homework a considered thought.


At the end of the frenzy, when inspectors feedback on lesson observations, they will ask individual teachers about their experience of lesson observations, their CPD and appraisal. Note, this is only for lessons of 25 to 30 minutes long. All other lessons observation lengths can seek feedback, but the minutiae and judgement will be much less in detail. With this in mind, and of course the illustrious ‘progress over time’ avowal, the descriptors are ‘best fit’ for outstanding and good only. It should no longer be a snapshot judgement.

Many skeptics, like we all can be, will argue how can you observe a 25 minute lesson and not make a snapshot judgement? What evidence can be sought to gather evidence that good or outstanding is the norm? I’ve always believed, consistently good, is outstanding practice. As we know, to produce an outstanding lesson, hour-after-hour, day-after-day, is attainable, but in the long-term, quite simply, unrealistic.

Good luck!”

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