How long before a judgement on ‘Teaching, Learning and Assessment’ is removed from school inspections?
In March 2106, the Department for Education published their White Paper: Education Excellence Everywhere. Apart from a hideous title and the ‘forced academisation’ being the two of the biggest sticking points, I’m confident there were smaller details within the 125-page document outlined for everyone that received a much quieter response.
For starters, who has the time to read such a lengthy document? For me, it was an initial skim-read, followed by the headlines and then a closer look at the ‘teaching and learning’ section.
Don’t believe me? Look here: one reference to research and evidence.
When we finally get to page 107 on School Inspections, we start to discover how Teaching, Learning and Assessment will be inspected in schools for the foreseeable future.
On the ground …
In school, leading teaching, learning and assessment, I want a better deal for teachers.
I do see a day where OfSTED in no-longer inspecting in its current format. I do see a time in the near future where schools, school leaders and teachers are monitoring and evaluating in peer-to-peer networks, in a more developmental sense and not in the current ‘high-stakes’ format that we have come to associate OfSTED with.
In the School Inspections section, the following paragraphs were noteworthy:
Ofsted will consult on removing the separate graded judgments on the quality of teaching, learning and assessment to help clarify that the focus of inspection is on outcomes and to reduce burdens on schools and teachers.
If this is to happen this September (2016), then consultation must be taking place right now.
I’ve been wanting to write about this since the White Paper was published and it’s my first blog about OfSTED for a very long time.
If we are to see an end to OfSTED grading schools on Teaching, Learning and Assessment forever, now is the time where the pilot should already be happening in school inspections. I am aware the inspections and schools will be subject to confidentiality which would hinder this proposal ever-happening, so it is important to remain discrete if you are reading this and are already involved.
Here is what Sean Harford – HMI and Ofsted’s National Director – has to say about teaching and learning:
The paper proposes that Ofsted removes the specific judgement on the quality of teaching, learning and assessment from our inspections of schools. As the White Paper sets out, Ofsted will, of course, consult on this proposed change. However, because we now operate under a common inspection framework, the consultation will cover the impact of the proposal on early years, further education and skills, as well as school inspections. We think the removal of the grade could be helpful, as it would allow us to reiterate the message that Ofsted does not have a preferred style of teaching. (Sean Harford)
I will briefly address each of the bullet points in the image shared above:
7.21 – at our school, we have laid out what teaching consistencies we are aiming for in our Learning Policy. At no point have we ever, or have stated a particular style of teaching. I’ve even gone as far to say that progressive and traditional teaching exists within all schools. I think all schools should promote teaching that allows your teachers to thrive and your students to learn.
7.22 – we encourage our teachers to take risks, but how can this be possible in a high-stakes system where one-off judgements determine the quality of a teacher, not teaching over time? As we introduce our Coaching Programme in 2016/17 – separate to appraisal – observation of classroom practice and other responsibilities is one method of assessing performance over time. The amount and type of classroom observation will depend on the individual circumstances of the teacher and the overall needs of the school and it is likely that some teachers will never be observed (unless they ask to be).
If you are a good teacher, achieving good outcomes year after year – however this is defined in your own school’s evidence base – what would a one-off observation achieve? We have banished lesson gradings and are soon to banish formal observations forever. I will share our progress over the coming months.
7.23 – for schools who are currently graded Requires Improvement like ourselves, removing lesson gradings and formal observations is in my opinion, cutting edge. Some may view this move as risky or ludicrous, or not very innovative at all, but regardless of opinion, for us we want our teachers to get on with teaching – without fads, gimmicks or preferences – focusing on what works regardless of their teaching style.
We will of course continue to support and challenge the quality of teaching over time through our new monitoring cycle (blog to follow in July 2016) which aims to support departments for two intensive weeks on a two-year carousel cycle.
One danger as a result of this proposal is this. If we remove a judgement on ‘Teaching, Learning and Assessment’, this strengthens OfSTED to report on other sources of evidence to determine how teaching is operating day-to-day. They will be looking at ‘over-time’ outcomes. Most likely, this will be levels of progress, attainment and achievement, and thus, empowering inspections to look even closer at data and league tables in RAISE online reports, dashboards and the like.
If we truly want to take an innovative step forward, the Department of Education and OfSTED need to recognise, the data is only one aspect of looking at the successes of the ‘whole-child’.
Until we are in a position to consider this, inspections will still force schools to game the system in terms of league tables, therefore supporting unnecessary workload in preparation for impending inspections.
OfSTED did reply with this tweet:
… which led me to re-read a blog from March 2016:
The date of the consultation is yet to be determined, but it will be sometime in the new academic year … When we introduced the common inspection framework in September 2015, I promised we wouldn’t change our school inspection handbook for a couple of years, unless legislation required us to make changes. You will be pleased to hear that we are not planning to make any significant changes at all for the academic year of 2016/17. (Sean Harford)