Would Ofsted Dare?

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Why should teachers have to use social media as a pressure relief valve?

The TES recently reported on some research carried out by the Education Endowment Foundation in which they reached a conclusion that structured lesson observations had no impact on GCSE Maths and English results. Unsurprisingly, this led to an explosion of comments from teachers who were in complete agreement.

What struck me were the comments about how often teachers are still observed in their school. This got me thinking. I assume that teachers know their comments are now out there for their schools and headteachers to see. For example:

One teacher said:

I am observed 9 times a year. ALL zero notice. 6 during normal lessons and 3 during tutor time, about 25 min for each one. All it does is make me look for a clipboard every time the door opens.

Behind The Times

Nine times a year with no notice! Could this be true?  Well I just had to find out for myself. So, with a bit of digging, it wasn’t long until I knew the accused school and I’m asking the headteacher for a comment. Over a week later, still no reply or a copy of the school’s lovely observation policy.

You can sense the frustration of another teacher in her comments:

“We are observed formally 3 times a year and informally 3 times a year on top of informal drop-ins (had 3 this term already!) I hate being graded on one lesson because I don’t do the “all singing, all dancing lesson” that some people do so well and get their “outstanding” grade for. I just teach the same way that I always do (the way most teachers do when they’re not being observed) because that’s how I teach and I’m bloody good at it. In fact I’d say, it’s outstanding, but not in comparison to the other teachers that tick all the boxes in their one lesson observation. However, the headteacher doesn’t care because he wants to see unrealistic teaching expectations to tick off his bloody checklists! Look at us for what we do all year round, not based on 3 lessons! Also, invest time in us rather than checking that teachers, that have been employed by the school, can bloody teach!”

A third teacher comments:

I’ve had one formal and three informal observations this term already out of 8 1/2 days in my classroom!”

You can read these and all the other comments here.

Recommendations

There is now no statutory limit to how many lesson observations can be carried out in a year, however there are some very clear recommendations from teaching unions that any good school would take note of. The NUT recommends “a maximum of three per year for all purposes, not exceeding three hours in total.” Is it any wonder teachers close their classroom doors if their jobs are at risk?

The NASUWT states, “There should be a limit of a total of three observations for all purposes. Under no circumstances shall the total time occupied by all observations exceed three hours per year and the focus and timing must be agreed in the teacher’s performance management planning statement.

Anonymous Frustration

Why are teachers having to resort to Facebook and Twitter to voice their frustrations and complaints about lesson observations? There seem to be two issues arising from the comments of teachers about the TES article.

  1. It appears as if there is still a general lack of awareness that there is no statutory limit to the number observations allowed.
  2. Teachers are complaining in the background. Some using the anonymity of a social media account to voice their fierce objections. Does this mean teachers are working in a climate where they are unable to express their feelings? You only need to look at various online forums – particularly some well-known multi academy trusts where the workload culture is apparent. Some shun the concept of anonymity, but are they in danger of antagonising their employer? Are they afraid to ask their trade union to intervene on their behalf?

OfSTED recently announced that as part of the school inspection questionnaire, they planned to ask teachers what their employer was doing to reduce workload. They could take this further and look deeper in to staff wellbeing. Other factors such as the pressures of oppressive lesson observation regimes seem to be going either undiscovered, or not noted by OfSTED.

I already hear the cries about how it could be open to abuse, but we could say the same about Parent View.

A Teacher

I'm a teacher and sometimes I'm a combination of more than one voice. I'm sharing the things that are going on in our schools - things that need to be talked about and brought to your attention via anonymity - meaning I'm safe from attribution and can therefore speak freely and openly. Please don't be offended.

3 thoughts on “Would Ofsted Dare?

  • 6th December 2017 at 8:01 am
    Permalink

    The DfE could end this nonsense in a moment. Apply the principle agreed by unions. Simple. Use observations as the basis of coaching – look no further than @TeacherToolkit model or the “Coaching for teaching and learning: a practical guide for schools Guidance report” (Rachel Lofthouse David Leat Carl Towler) or (my preference) https://www.brief.org.uk/therapy-and-coaching – all great resources and based around a competency framework for coaches NOT indiscriminate subjective observation skills flawed at source.

    The point surely is that, if lesson observation/grading is of itself unreliable, how on earth can these schools afford to pay senior salaries for the number of hours wasted. Extraordinarily poor use of public funds. This funding could be used to provide exceptional opportunities to develop teaching proactively. When will we learn? Now that’s quite ironic really …… we’re meant to know a thing or two about learning are we not?

    Reply
  • 30th December 2017 at 6:27 pm
    Permalink

    I think that point 1 of the issues arising – being that there is a lack of awareness is not necessarily true. Our HT knows – I have pointed it out to him on several occasions. After already having a formal obvs, drop-ins then Ofsted all by Nov last year, he said he was doing observations. I pointed out that we had had three from Ofsted alone and should not have any more – the response? I got shouted at in the corridor: “You mean to tell me that I cannot observe in MY OWN school?!” I walked away.

    Reply

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