An edu-blogger mandate for @OfstedNews by @TeacherToolkit

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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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If you have been following my blogs recently, you will be fully aware of what has happened today.

There is so much to blog here; and I have promised myself to just share the headlines from today’s meeting at Ofsted headquarters – Aviation House. Kingsway, London. We have also been promised the minutes from today, so we will share these with you at a later date …

My prediction that this meeting would happen, is written here for all to see … “The social-media epoch is out-dating policy-makers and I have verification of this and a promise of what is to come!”


It is with great significance, that a number of bloggers are having a small impact on Ofsted headquarters. As I have said, the social-media epoch is out-dating Ofsted, and knowing Ofsted’s desire to raise their own social-media profile, as well as take into account the end-user, this meeting was initiated, planned and delivered to hear our views.

This is a huge step forward and can only be the start of much more to come … So, hurrah for edu-bloggers; and dare I say, hurrah for Ofsted!


Not everyone who is anyone, who tweets and blogs could be represented at the meeting today; but those who were, represented the profession as best we could. In attendance, were @LearningSpy; @TomBennett71; @ClerkToGovernor; my ex-colleague @headguruteacher; me a.k.a. @TeacherToolkit and of course, the National Ofsted Director for Schools, @mcladingbowl.

Left to right: @TomBennett71; @LearningSpy; @ClerkToGovernor; Mike Cladingbowl; @headguruteacher & @TeacherToolkit (18.2.14)
Left to right: @TomBennett71; @LearningSpy; @ClerkToGovernor; Mike Cladingbowl; @headguruteacher & @TeacherToolkit (18.2.14)

I am writing my own interpretation of what was discussed at the meeting today; and you will be able to build a picture of the collective-view, as and when the above colleagues (bloggers) publish. So, do keep an eye out for their updates.

The meeting:

Mike Cladingbowl has promised much more to come; and notably, the collective views of many teachers/bloggers. This was the beginning of a change in ethos. Today, we stressed the importance of everyone being given the forum, to express their views in a structured and meaningful way. I can confidently report, that Mike has good intentions for Ofsted to be at the forefront of those at the chalk-face!

Without going into minute detail, I have encapsulated five key points from today’s discussion:

  1. We stressed the importance of what is prescribed and stipulated to schools; for teachers, governors and parents. We stressed how this information can have a huge impact on us all. How information can be misinterpreted and so often, results in fear and doing-for-Ofsted; not doing-for-the-students. Almost, a ‘you say, we all follow’ culture. Mike did add, that in Ofsted feedback: ‘9/10 headteachers say they are satisfied with Ofsted inspection process and outcome’. We ask for less prescription and more freedom. Less is more.
  2. Leading on from this, we discussed the importance of how Ofsted improve their communication with schools. The latest examples being on Christmas Eve(!) and on the 6th February with Myths and Facts. We should know when key updates are being published – not guessing – and that these are timely and supportive of the work-life balance of teachers in schools (where possible). We also discussed that in any guidance, tracked changes are included, so thousands of us are not frantically analysing documents and misinterpreting information – as well as noticing small minor grammatical changes and additional content. We suggested an @AskOfsted Twitter channel could be set-up for schools to ‘ask for support and clarification’; and that this becomes the paramount channel for announcing significant news. Not only would this improve their own social-media communications, but that ALL schools would know this was the one channel to stay informed.
  3. We discussed the need for differentiated inspections; perhaps conversational with headteachers, rather than the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ model we are all too familiar with. We also discussed the new no-notice behaviour inspections; as well as ‘context’ being taken into account when reporting. And that with this context, there is a (differentiated) communication of reports, that takes school-context into account; – for example; not being able to recruit a head of department = fall in standards/blip year in results. Perhaps, including data dashboards in reports, so that high-risk headlines are fairly represented and least detrimental to the schools involved.
  4. Regarding all classroom teaching and teachers: this crucial conversation was repeated throughout the meeting; that no more (one-off) lessons should continue to be graded. If feedback is provided, they should not carry a grade and if inspectors provide this in their feedback, they are not following guidance. Ofsted (Mike Cladingbowl) stated: ‘this was never our intention’ and disappointingly, this clearly seems to be the perfect example of how schools; leaders; consultants and teachers have misinterpreted the whole-school framework for grading overall quality of teaching and learning. It was never – I repeat – never, intended to be used for one-off lesson judgements! We only have ourselves to blame … And a resounding ‘no’ to overall gradings too! Again, that there is too much at stake and that the reliability and validity could not guarantee accuracy. We discussed current alternative methods for doing this and we affirmed, that we know our teachers/teaching better than anyone else. And that this could not be picked up in 20 minutes, nor in a 1-2 day inspection visit. The process was perhaps a validation of what we already know, and that the school SEF be made public, to help drive school improvement – support the inspection process – and outward-facing information for Joe-public. It is clearly time for Ofsted to rethink inspection visits and how they are conducted.
  5. Finally, whistle-blowing HMIs; bad-practice and quality of inspectorate. Mike insisted he wants to know where inspection does not fit guidance. He raised Mocksteds; consultants and ‘snake oil’. It is our duty to inform Ofsted of malpractice and I suggested, that Ofsted make their whistle-blowing procedures much more obvious for all. The outcome of this meeting, is clearly a step forward for improving the process and framework.

Each of my colleagues (bloggers) raised our own particular interests and there is much more to include; but hopefully I have picked up on the key issues and have represented the meeting well … Overall, Mike wanted to meet with us – as a group – again; plus provide a forum for others to attend, share and suggest.

Meanwhile, Ofsted are hosting @SLTchat this Sunday; so do join in. Mike will be tweeting too! It promises to clarify the current issues debated on lesson observations and the impact of a one-off inspection culture.

I will report back as soon as I receive the minutes from Ofsted; and blogs from Tom B.; Tom. S; David and Sheena.



One oversight raised by @philriozzi was found in Ofsted Subsidiary Guidance – January 2014. A perfect example of information misinterpreted, and where guidance leads to further contradiction and inspection subjectivity (for one-off lessons).

Paragraph 66: “When giving feedback, inspectors must not argue that they are unable to give a particular grade because of the time spent in the lesson.”

Click to open Tweet

and an Ofsted (EF) Evaluation Form used in lesson observations. Is it time for this form to be changed?

Ofsted observation EF
Ofsted observation EF


24 thoughts on “An edu-blogger mandate for @OfstedNews by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Hi Ross,

    Inspectors give three grades typically following a “lesson observation”. However, the phrase used is that this is based on the “sample of learning” observed. For example one might say “the achievement in that sample was good because students made good progress as a consequence of good teaching; behaviour was good as students consistently displayed positive attitudes.” So essentially Ofsted have never given grades for lesson observations and this is made clear in the additional inspector training. I can see however, that for many this will be a case of semantics rather than a real difference. I suppose my question in relation to point 4 above is are Ofsted actually offering anything different here?

  2. Ross, thank you for posting this update of your meeting with Mike at Ofsted. I think the most important thing you can do as a follow up is to post the minutes of the meeting when you receive them. There is clearly quite a bit of confusion or misunderstanding and maybe misinterpretation of Ofsted policy particularly, when it comes to lesson observation. It will be interesting and essential that we see precisely what the record shows.

    The school inspection handbook makes it clear that:

    “The key objective of lesson observations is to EVALUATE the quality of teaching and its contribution to learning, particularly in the core subjects.” (p10; emphasis added).

    The process of evaluation requires the evaluator to make judgements hence, according to Ofsted’s latest policy, inspectors are required to make judgements when carrying out lesson observations. Indeed, inspectors are encouraged to convert their judgements into grades as outlined further on in the handbook:

    “When inspectors carry out lesson observations, they should grade, where possible, key judgements such as achievement and teaching, indicating in particular the growth in students’ knowledge and the quality of their learning. Judgements made through shorter observations will relate to the part of the lesson observed. For short observations, inspectors might not award grades, but should use the evidence they have gathered to inform the overall evaluation of teaching.” (p12.)

    Contrary to what has been said, Ofsted have always awarded overall judgements to lessons. I have been accompanied by an inspector during inspection on numerous occasions and been asked to let them know what grade I would give to the lesson we have both just observed. Mike may well be suggesting that policy has been misunderstood generally, but I must say I find that hard to believe given what is written in its own documentation and that the instruments used to gather data during lesson observations require inspectors to collect evidence AND made judgements.

    And, by the way, learning cannot be observed in a lesson. All that can be observed is teacher and learner behaviour, artefacts produced by both and the teaching/learning environment. It really is time that Ofsted stopped suggesting learning can be observed or that the impact of teaching on learning can somehow be measured through lesson observation.

    I look forward to reading the minutes of the meeting.

      1. You may need to pester Mike for the minutes, if some of the comments on the blogs of other attendees at the meeting are anything to go by!

  3. Now I’m really confused; para 31 of the School Inspection Handbook reads:
    “When inspectors carry out lesson observations, they should grade, where possible, key judgements such as achievement and teaching, indicating in particular the growth in students’ knowledge and the quality of their learning.”

    Have Ofsted produced anything in writing that corroborates the answer that was given in point 4 above?

    “4.Regarding all classroom teaching and teachers: this crucial conversation was repeated throughout the meeting; that no more (one-off) lessons should continue to be graded. If feedback is provided, they should not carry a grade”

  4. Pingback: OFSTED - Requiring Improvement | HuntingEnglishHuntingEnglish
  5. Pingback: Graded lesson observations: a requisite or a relict? | M J Bromley's Blog

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