Secret @TeacherToolkit: Why lesson feedback can be divisive? #SecretOfsted

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This is a Secret @TeacherToolkit article: A teacher’s experience of Ofsted in London.

Earlier this week, I received an email from a senior teacher in South England. After a few email exchanges, we decided it would be best to share this experience – anonymously – via my blog. I received a flood of emails and further Ofsted stories; so I have decided to share this further narrative.

A classroom experience of Ofsted:

This is the original email.

“After an inspection in second week of term, I headed along the corridors to meet the Ofsted inspector for my lesson feedback. After a very brief discussion, a less than specific judgement was made … followed by an absolute interrogation.

What are your performance management targets exactly? What is your schools biggest spend out of pupil premium?! Zero minimal feedback, maximum time putting me on spot!”

I wish Ofsted knew what they wanted.

Photo Credit: Lori Greig via Compfight cc


Don’t get me wrong; any teacher worth their salt, realises the value of reflection and changing practice if needs be. But truth be told, the kids in front of me aren’t always the reason I change my practice.

Last week, I noticed that a child had glued their worksheet in such a way, that my AFL (Assessment for Learning) sticker could not be seen by anyone casting an eye over my books … and I was filled with a sense of panic.

As I carefully peeled out the worksheet, re-folding it and gluing it in again; hiding my pupils cursive writing inside so that senior leadership would see that I had clearly shown that child how to ‘progress to the next sub-level’ on my big blue sticker, it made me very sad.

Photo Credit: Mr Stucke via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mr Stucke via Compfight cc

When did my focus become so heavily weighted on showing off what I can do, rather than what my students can?

My school floated for years under the title ‘satisfactory’. Our CVA (Contextual Value Added) was a big boost to us; as our often mediocre results were counter-acted by our inclusive approach.

So, when a grade 3 went from doing ‘ok’, to no longer ok; we were always going to be in trouble!

How can you thwart the Grim Reaper? - click to read
How can you thwart the Grim Reaper? – click to read

Our Ofsted inspection came into the first week of the winter term. It took us all by surprise; but hey, at least they wouldn’t be asking for heaps of beautifully marked books to trawl through …

Why lesson feedback can be divisive?

I was observed on the first day and full of confidence went for my feedback at the end of the day.

“So what are your performance management targets?!” She asked.

Hmm … These targets had been set last September 2013, and fresh from six weeks off, were not in the front of my mind. I muttered something about differentiating and linking into the SEF (School Evaluation Form)

“I see,” she said. Further questioning left me totally flustered and I left with no idea on how my ‘Requires Improvement’ lesson could have been improved.

Needless to say, the Ofsted report pointed out that staff were unaware of their performance management targets.

6 months later:

So, when Ofsted returned six months later, we were armed and ready.

The SEF had been adjusted; we ticked off the criticisms of the last report; we all knew our targets and we knew them well. Of course, this came as little use, because by this time Ofsted appeared; they had done a complete u-turn on what they were looking for!

 Photo Credit: Lord Jim via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Lord Jim via Compfight cc

They asked no-one about their targets!


Marking they said, … marking was the issue.

So, fast forward another six months and we’re back in that ‘could call any day’ phase. I know my targets; my books are a plethora of coloured stickers and that my seating plans are colour-coded and ready to go! But, will we please them?

Will we tick all the boxes we were given by them to tick? As we brace ourselves for ‘the call’ yet again, I can’t help but wonder if it would have been just as useful preparation to stick my wet finger out the window to see which way the wind is blowing.

And how is this improving my own practice; as well as the needs of my own students?

Any advice?


Comments are free:

If you would like to leave a comment for this school teacher to share with their school; please do so by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post.

I will also respond to you, on behalf of the secret-teacher, after sharing your comments.

Photo Credit: seq via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: seq via Compfight cc

 Secret @TeacherToolkit?

If you have an Ofsted experience you would like to share; please contact me below in good faith.

9 thoughts on “Secret @TeacherToolkit: Why lesson feedback can be divisive? #SecretOfsted

  1. Comment from William:
    It sounds to me that whatever governing body oversees your evaluation, are not giving you clearly defined expectations for said evaluations and therefore should have no tangible impact on your practice. If they cannot be held accountable for their process, I really don’t see how the’re qualified to make such judgements.

  2. Comment from Mark:
    Your best bet is to be true to yourself, with due regard to the lesson observation criteria, but playing ‘guess what the inspector wants’ leads to worry, being unfulfilled and feeling like a hamster on a wheel. Trust that you know what the children need and plan and prepare to meet those needs, anything else is the path the misery and self-recrimination. Have a look at Alastair Smith’s key note at #TLAB13, which is available on YouTube to realise how truly futile it is. In the meantime, best of luck and believe in yourself and your professional judgement.

  3. From Chrissie

    Comment: We set children up to succeed by informing them what they need to do to move forward. When it comes to ofsted the targets move dependent on who visits and what they decide to focus on. This changes with the wind so teachers and schools are unable to meet targets because they always move or expeditions change based in different inspectors. If you read any bullying policy it will tell you that moving targets so it can never be achieved is bullying. So are teachers and schools being bullied by ofsted?

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