Should The Department for Education Ban Lesson Gradings?

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To help reduce workload and teacher attrition, should the DfE ban schools from using lesson gradings?

Research suggests grading lessons is unreliable. Therefore, if schools are ignoring this fact, why do some still continue to penalise teachers when research highlights that it is a flawed process?

Broadly speaking, I’m not one for banning anything within education, or advocating one approach in every school. Nor am I someone to advocate that the school inspection service or the Department for Education should start to dictate what schools should or shouldn’t do. However, perhaps it is time for the DfE or the watchdog service to report on issues in schools that are driving teacher workload and attrition?

Teacher Views

‘Should OfSTED ban lesson gradings in schools?’ was a question I asked my followers on social media. Or, allow me rephrase the original question: ‘Despite research, should OfSTED report on which schools still grade teachers?’ This question made me contemplate what OfSTED and the DfE could do to improve teacher recruitment, retention and wellbeing, holding schools and school leaders to account; reporting on what research the latest suggests on teaching and learning, versus the factors that drive teachers away from the profession.

Here is the latest (January 2018) set of questions OfSTED ask during school inspections. The questionnaire is not compulsory and is anonymous and is broadly the same as the last version; workload questions are included, but perhaps do not dig into the workload and wellbeing issues hard enough?

Building upon my original question and the OfSTED survey, when sampling workforce opinions during an inspection process, here are a list of statements OfSTED ‘could consider’ if they were to introduce ‘teacher view’ to help get to the bottom of teacher retention issues.

Teaching and Learning

  1. Does your school grade teachers?
  2. Does your school grade lessons? Over time?
  3. Does your school grade mark books?
  4. Does your school’s monitoring and evaluation cycle improve your classroom practice or lead to greater paperwork?
  5. Have your curriculum time been reduced or increased over the past 12 months? Why?

Appraisal

  1. Does your school grade teacher appraisal?
  2. Have you ever had a pay progression denied?
  3. Does performance related pay at your school make you a teacher? What evidence do you have?
  4. How does your school conduct its performance management and appraisal?
  5. Is the appraisal process just 3 meetings per year or a regular professional discussion?

Workload

  1. Are you given any PPA time? (Planning, preparation and assessment)
  2. What is your school’s marking policy?
  3. How much time do you have in the working week set aside for planning and marking?
  4. Do you teach cover lessons? Are you expected to put up displays?
  5. What does your school leadership do to help reduce teacher workload at your school?
  6. How many after school meetings are there? How does this impact on part-time teachers?

CPD

  1. How many hours of professional development has your school granted you this academic year?
  2. How often do you have subject specific CPD?
  3. How often do your professional development sessions discuss ‘improving teaching’?
  4. How much cash has been spent on your professional development this year?
  5. Does your school leadership team (and headteacher) take part in professional development sessions at this school?

Wellbeing

  1. What happens when you need to take time off for an emergency?
  2. What happens when you return to work after a period of illness?
  3. What does your school do to reduce teacher workload?
  4. Is it frowned upon if you are caught sitting in the staffroom?
  5. Are you encouraged for example, to be off-site by 5PM or not to respond to emails out of hours?

Does Performance Related Pay Make You A Better Teacher? A majority of teachers (66%) thought that their school’s current pay policy had added to their workload and 58% thought that it had made no difference to the way they worked. (Department for Education: Evaluation of Teachers’ Pay Report, October 2017.)

Some of these questions are asked in an Investor in People quality assurance. If OfSTED did start to ask teachers their opinions during an OfSTED inspection, what questions would you like to be asked?

@TeacherToolkit

Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, a simple Twitter account which rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK'. He is an award winning teacher and an experienced school leader and as @TeacherToolkit, curated this website you are now reading as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in the Britain' by The Sunday Times and one of the most influential in the field of education. He is the only classroom teacher to feature. He is a former Teaching Award nominee for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School in London' and has also written 3 books on teaching. Read more here.

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