Thwart the Grim-Reaper: #Ofsted reworks (Sep ’13)

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Halt The Grim Reaper!


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Here are some key Ofsted (September 2013) updates relevant to teaching and learning in the classroom. I have provided a summary of what will change for the teacher alone; ignoring all other updates. Any text in red, is crucial to ‘Thwart the Grim-Reaper’ from entering your classroom this academic year.

N.b. (Nota bene) I have written this post to incorporate some serious messages, but with a light-hearted twist.

Thwart the Grim-Reaper: #Ofsted reworks.

Definition: “In some cases, the Grim Reaper can actually cause the victim’s death, leading to tales that he can be bribed, tricked, or outwitted in order to retain one’s life.”

The above definition in Ofsted speak: “In some cases, the inspector can actually cause the teacher’s death, leading to an Ofsted report where the inspector can be bribed, tricked, or outwitted, based on a 25 minutes observation in order to keep you in a job.”

Cartoon by Malcolm Laverty (Copyright)
Cartoon by Malcolm Laverty (Copyright)

(If you want to skip the full details of this post, I have provided the changes ‘In a nutshell’ underneath the peanut image!)

Which way have the goalposts moved?
Which way have the goalposts moved?

So, the goalposts have shifted once again and the Grim-Reaper is coming! And rest assured, we can expect an updated framework again in January 2014 or April 2014 and most definitely in September 2014!

As credited in the footer, the highlighted changes from the Ofsted (September 2013) summary are here. The bullet points and paragraph references that are listed below, relate to the updated School Inspections Handbook (September 2013). You can see a clearer comparison from the resources, combined into the Inspections Handbook here. I highly recommend reading and using this.

September 2013 changes for the classroom teacher:

What I have provided for you, are the highlights that directly impact on you and I as a teacher in the classroom. I have done my utmost to keep this post a) easy to digest and b) succinct and accessible for all classroom teachers.

Gathering and recording evidence:

  • Page 10 – Bullet 24: Ofsted now say from September 2013 (with updates in red): “Inspectors must spend as much time as possible gathering evidence on teaching and learning, observing lessons, scrutinising work (including in pupils’ books and writing), talking to pupils about their work, gauging their understanding and their engagement in learning, and obtaining pupils’ perceptions of typical teaching.”

Lesson observations:

  • Page 10 – Bullet 26: Ofsted now say from September 2013 (with updates in red): “The key objective of lesson observations is to evaluate the quality of teaching and its contribution to learning, particularly in the core subjects. Inspectors must not advocate a particular method of teaching or show preference towards a specific lesson structure. As such, inspectors will not look for a preferred methodology but must record aspects of teaching that are effective and identify ways in which teaching and learning can be improved.Through lesson observations and subsequent discussions with senior staff and teachers, inspectors should ensure that they:
  • judge the accuracy of teachers’ and leaders’ evaluation of teaching and learning;
  • gather evidence about how well individual pupils and particular groups of pupils are learning and making progress, including those with special needs, those for whom the pupil premium provides
    support and the most able, and assess the extent to which pupils have grown in knowledge;
  • collect sufficient evidence to support detailed and specific recommendations about any improvements needed to teaching and learning.
  • Page 11 – Bullet 27: Ofsted now say from September 2013 (with updates in red): “Inspectors will not expect teachers to prepare lesson plans for the inspection. However, they will use the evidence gathered from lesson observations to help judge the overall quality of the school’s curriculum planning.
The 5 Minute Lesson Plan
The 5 Minute Lesson Plan

Plug If you still feel the need to produce a lesson plan for an Ofsted inspection, don’t waste your time! If you are the type that wants to use a lesson plan as a aide-memoir, then use The 5 Minute Lesson Plan – approved by Ofsted inspectors and verified in an Ofsted report here. It’s minimal and focused; plus you will have less than one nights notice to potential write 10 lesson plans! So, 50 minutes of planning leaves you with time to rest and get to bed early ready for the day ahead … (Plug ends)

Lesson observations cont.:

  • Page 11 – Bullet 28: Ofsted now say from September 2013 (with updates in red): “There are many different strategies for lesson observations. Lead inspectors should not be constrained by a single approach, but should use their professional judgement to plan an appropriate lesson observation strategy. For example, inspectors may engage in:
  • short visits to a number of lessons, spending a few minutes in each;
  • short observations of small group teaching, for example of phonics;
  • lesson observations of more than 25 minutes; during which they may observe activities and talk with pupils about their work …
  • Page 12 – Bullet 32: Ofsted now say from September 2013 (with updates in red): “As noted above, inspectors must not advocate a particular approach to teaching or planning lessons. It is for the school to determine how best to teach and engage pupils to secure their good learning.”

Personal experience:

Ofsted in a nutshell
Ofsted in a nutshell

I have included the following information (although it is not a change from the September 2012 framework) as I have found this to be paramount in adopting a transparent and collaborative teaching and learning culture in my own place of work during 2012-13.

  • Page 12 – Bullet 35: Ofsted say from September 2012 & 2013: “In most cases, the senior member of staff involved in the joint observation will give feedback. The inspector should observe the feedback, as this may provide evidence about the standard of discussion about teacher practice in the school.”

The approach that we have adopted in our school, is that ALL observations – where possible – are conducted in triads with appointed coaches and appraisers. This has NOT just been for the senior leadership team; all teaching staff have been involved. The process has also been completed ‘over time’, before judgements are sensitively recorded to aid the teacher, the department and the school. This system is supported in order to form an accurate picture and an accurate assessment of what support a teacher needs and what the school should prioritise.

In a nutshell:

As much as it pains me to preach about Ofsted changes, here is a simple list of what you need to be doing:

How can you Thwart the Grim-Reaper?

How can you thwart the Grim Reaper?
How can you thwart the Grim Reaper?
  1. Pg10/Bullet24: Mark student books and provide valid feedback, religiously. Any absent-marking beyond the length of a half-term, then you are asking for trouble! Not just in Ofsted terms, but impact on your own practice in your classroom and the effects that this will have on your students making sufficient progress. How can students make any ‘progress over time’, if they have no feedback in their books? Remember, this is not just about assessment, but the quality of the writing and the length. For example, is there evidence of sustained writing (in whole sentences and paragraphs); the marking for literacy (SPAG) and searching to see if tasks are usually finished or not.  Presentation is also increasingly important – no doodling or graffiti if you want good or outstanding! (This links to their “thirst for knowledge” and “love of learning”).
  2. Pg10/Bullet26: Teach how you want to teach! If it is effective and aids learning, then teach in a didactic style if needed. Ignore group work if it’s not needed either. Whatever you need to do for that lesson, continue as planned.
  3. Pg10/Bullet26: Ensure you can evidence ‘progress over time‘ for groups of learners; those with special needs; the most able; and those who receive support via the pupil premium.
  4. Pg11/Bullet27: Do NOT waste your time providing inspectors with lesson plans. If your school insists on providing them, show them the sentence written CLEARLY in the School Inspections Handbook. Ask yourself if your senior leadership team has read it?! Ofsted will gather evidence to judge curriculum planning from a much higher and strategic level. At best, they may take an interest in schemes of work that support your lesson plan. N.b. As some inspectors will say, lesson plans can be very helpful to an inspector if they are offered. It’s probably worth making the effort for inspection (see my *plug* above to save time). Personally, I’d provide a photographic-seating plan, with latest data scribbled alongside. Nothing else… But, the choice is yours. Do what makes you comfortable, to teach well.
  5. Pg11/Bullet28: In lesson observations longer than 25 minutes, you should expect inspectors to talk with students and use their comments as part of the evaluation form. (This has also now appeared in many Pay Policies – “to take into account the views of students”.)
  6. Pg12/Bullet32: Ofsted will not judge you or your school for the approach you take to lesson planning or style of teaching. However, your school may promote a particular style and approach to teaching and lesson planning that you may be expected to adopt. (You are only as good as your team!)

Teaching and learning help:

*Working with @HeatherLeatt throughout 2012-13 has allowed my workplace to achieve the following:

  • raised standards of teaching and learning throughout the academy from 65% to 74% ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’. We fully anticipate 80%+ this academic year. This will have an impact on our academic standards, but we know we cannot be truly ‘Outstanding’ until there is no more consistently judged ‘Requires Improvement’ teaching.
  • provided paired CPD-observations for all senior teacher and middle leaders. For 2013-14 the programme will offered to all TLR holders and classroom teachers.
  • developed feedback experience and strategies.
  • improved our practice within our own Good to Outstanding group.
  • inspired us to develop our own (and very popular) Good in Ten CPD programme.
  • improved our work with the SEF. (School Evaluation Form).

(*Note this work was also achieved with the help of Dr. Lorna Cork MBE).

Professional Development post September 2013:

No doubt, by the end of December, we will be inundated with CPD flyers for courses to the following:

CPD courses to end your teaching career...
CPD courses to end your teaching career…
  1. Pg10/Bullet24: Evidencing writing!
  2. Pg10/Bullet26: Lead your institution to teach any methodology!
  3. Pg10/Bullet26: Show progress for all types of learners!
  4. Pg10/Bullet26: How to build up your teaching and learning evidence file!
  5. Pg11/Bullet27: How to avoid writing lesson plans!
  6. Pg11/Bullet28: How inspectors observe and what they ask when talking with students!
  7. Pg12/Bullet32: Teach (how you like), so inspectors will love you, no matter how much your style irritates them!

(These CPD courses are parodied.)

Credit and Reference:

This information is based on the superb summaries provided by @HeatherLeatt through her own Twitter feed and on her own website. I highly recommend you consider employing Heather to help your own team. (I make no reference to Heather being the Grim Reaper).

You can download a superb presentation of the changes here, by @MrJKWilson.

Further reading:

Expecting Ofsted? There is an excellent source of information found on the Ofsted website itself; particularly for inspection within the following areas: This is ‘Briefings and information for use during inspections of maintained schools and academies.’

  • Additional provision to manage behaviour briefing
  • Concerns identified
  • Coordinated inspection of hard federations and shared 6th forms
  • English as an additional language
  • Exploring the schools actions to prevent homophobic bullying
  • Guidance for school self-evaluation
  • Guide to Ofsted’s house style
  • Inspecting children’s centres briefing
  • Inspecting equalities briefing
  • Inspecting e-safety
  • Inspecting extended school provision
  • Inspecting faith schools
  • Inspecting registered EY provision managed by GB
  • Inspecting safeguarding briefing
  • Inspecting the effectiveness of partnerships
  • Level 3 value added (L3VA) briefing
  • Pupils with medical needs briefing

13 thoughts on “Thwart the Grim-Reaper: #Ofsted reworks (Sep ’13)

  1. These are interesting changes. I left teaching in the UK because of Ofsted’s overemphasis of only what can be measured. It is encouraging they have stopped insisting on a particular lesson structure though it is probably because they were going into classrooms where ‘their’ structure wasn’t used but students were achieving highly in exams. The amount of doublethink they had to employ in that situation must have been extraordinary.
    About marking: when I started working in Danish schools the children didn’t give me their books to mark. That was *their* reference material. Instead I would grade any assignments I gave. These were not kept in the classroom but rather at their homes. Now I work in an IB school and I have to make regular formative assessments but keep my hands off their books.
    It’s funny how one system’s MUST DO is another system’s NOT DONE.
    A lot of what English teachers have to do is provide evidence that they have done the actual thing they were supposed to be doing. Surely this could do with a streamline.

    1. Hi Kel, You make some really useful and interesting points. There is a huge amount of pressure on teachers to mark books. I think the key for us left in the UK, is to mark smarter. There is a useful #5MinMarkingPlan on my blog for everyon to use. This helps teachers focus on ‘what’ assessment is essential. Streamline is definitely needed. I’ll have a think of a proposal… Thanks for the comment.

  2. The 25 minute observation was employed up to 2005 or so, in a similar format to what’s described above. Because I teach a variety of Humanity subjects and that’s where Ofsted’s focus was directed during their 2004 visit, I was observed 7 times in one week! One outstanding, 5 Goods and 1 satisfactory.
    The most important thing is for SLT to stay CALM and not worry everyone else so much that they can’t think straight.

  3. Specifically for Primaries… Worth pointing out the explicit reference to progress fom Early Learning Goals to level 2b in judging progress in KS1

  4. Great summary of all the changes although as you say they are always changing and not even consistent between teams. It,s interesting on how HMI will have totally different perspectives on curriculum and attainment and which they see as more important the pupils experience, progress or outcome . One senior HMI said to me be prepared for inspectors to look for books in draws and really dig around a classroom of which he did and found those hidden. Books, didn’t watch teacher or talk to pupils just observed the learning very keen on SMSC and pupils wider experience.


  5. Pingback: Good Luck, you’ll need it. | Auntie Plantie's Blog

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