Having spoken to several teachers who aren’t yet fully aware of the nature of the new Ofsted schedule, I’ve tried to pull out a few generic aspects of the schedule and accompanying guidance for inspectors, relating specifically to the inspection of Teaching and Learning, that could just slip under the radar for those of you who haven’t yet had time to read them.
Please note that this is in no way a comprehensive guide to the documentation and doesn’t include every point, just a few things you need to be aware of, and hopefully it will encourage everyone to read it fully and to be well-prepared with first hand knowledge.
The emboldened text is to draw your attention to particular points.
Red, italicised texts are my notes and are not the views of Ofsted.
Guidance and grade descriptors for inspecting schools in England under section 5 of the Education Act 2005, from January 2012
Reference no: 110127
Quality of teaching in the school
The most important role of teaching is to promote learning so as to raise pupils’ achievement. It is also important in promoting their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Teaching should be understood to include teachers’ planning and implementing of learning activities across the whole curriculum, as well as marking, assessment and feedback. It comprises activities within and outside the classroom, such as support and intervention.
The judgement on the quality of teaching must take account of evidence of pupils’ learning and progress.
Criteria for evaluation
When evaluating the quality of teaching in the school, inspectors must consider:
- the extent to which teachers’ expectations, reflected in their teaching and planning, including curriculum planning, are sufficiently high to extend the previous knowledge, skills and understanding of all pupils in a range of lessons and activities over time
How are you making expectations clear?
How do you know they are high and challenging, yet achievable and not demotivating?
How is the work you are doing building on prior knowledge and experience?
How do you go about finding out what students’ prior knowledge and experiences are?
- how well teaching enables pupils to develop skills in reading, writing, communication and mathematics
I think it’s probably fair to say that teachers of subjects other than English and maths will possibly have focused more on the support and development of writing skills than reading, speaking and listening and mathematics. However, these will be a particular focus for inspection from now on, and could be more of an issue for secondary colleagues who don’t teach English as a discrete subject.
Are you aware of the challenges your students might face with any reading/writing/mathematical tasks? (Is this evident from your planning?)
What strategies do you use to help them with reading/writing/mathematical tasks?
Do you reinforce those used in English lessons?
(It’s possible that if you’re not teaching English then you don’t know what strategies they’re being taught. Now’s the time to find out.)
- the extent to which well judged teaching strategies, including setting challenging tasks matched to pupils’ learning needs, successfully engage all pupils in their learning
- how well pupils understand how to improve their learning as a result of frequent, detailed and accurate feedback from teachers following assessment of their learning
- the extent to which teachers’ questioning and use of discussion promote learning
- the extent to which the pace and depth of learning are maximised as a result of teachers’ monitoring of learning during lessons and any consequent actions in response to pupils’ feedback
- the extent to which teachers enthuse, engage and motivate pupils to learn and foster their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning
- how well teachers use their expertise, including their subject knowledge, to develop pupils’ knowledge, skills and understanding across a range of subjects and areas of learning
What is the extent of your subject knowledge?
Are there areas in which you are not sure? (Especially if you’re teaching out of your specialism)
As a teacher, what do you do to make sure your knowledge of what you are teaching is secure?
What do you as a subject leader do to make sure the teachers of your subject have secure knowledge, understanding and skills? E.g. do you flag up possible misconceptions before they embark on teaching particular units?
- the extent to which teachers enable pupils to develop the skills to learn for themselves, where appropriate, including setting appropriate homework to develop their understanding
How does the homework you’re setting now develop their understanding? Remember, they will ask the students what “Typically” happens.
- the quality of teaching and other support provided for pupils with a range of aptitudes and needs, including disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs, so that their learning improves.
The main evidence will come from inspectors’ direct observations of teaching and learning and their discussions of what they have seen with teachers, other adults and pupils.
Direct observation should be supplemented by a range of other evidence to enable inspectors to evaluate the impact that teaching has had on pupils’ learning. Such additional evidence should include:
- observing some lessons jointly with senior staff before discussing them also with the teacher who has been observed
Note the use of the word “discussion” here – not a monologue of praise or criticism. (See section 39 of the subsidiary guidance below.)
- discussing pupils’ work with them and their experience of teaching and learning over longer periods
Be aware that what you’re doing now will come under scrutiny, not just during the inspection.
- discussing teaching and learning with staff
- taking account of the views of pupils, parents and carers, and staff
- taking account of the school’s own evaluations of the quality of teaching and its impact on learning
- scrutinising the standard of pupils’ work, noting:
- how well and frequently marking and assessment are used to help pupils to improve their learning
- the level of challenge provided.
Make sure you can identify and discuss how you are providing sufficient and appropriate challenge (don’t forget higher ability!)
Subsidiary guidance supporting the inspection of maintained schools and academies from January 2012
Reference no: 110166
The quality of teaching in the school
38. In judging the quality of teaching, inspectors must consider the typical features of teaching in the school, including the strengths and areas for development. Consideration should be made at all times to pages 11-12 of the Evaluation Schedule. This judgement must not be based predominately on the teaching grades given in lesson observations.
The key objectives of lesson observations are to evaluate the quality of learning and the contribution of teaching. In addition, lesson observations will identify ways in which teaching and learning can be improved. Lesson observations and subsequent discussions with senior staff and teachers should ensure that:
- inspectors are able to judge the accuracy of the school’s evaluation of teaching and learning
- observations are focused on issues arising from the pre-inspection briefing or from early inspection activity
- inspectors are able to gather evidence on how well particular groups of pupils, as well as individuals, are learning and making progress evidence is collected so that detailed and specific recommendations can be made to improve teaching and learning.
Inspectors should not expect to see a detailed written lesson plan for every lesson they observe, although they will look at lesson plans when they are offered by teachers.
(N.B. This does not mean that SLT shouldn’t ask you to do them though – or that it’s bad practice to have them. Lesson plans would be a useful document to support you not only in the lesson, but in subsequent discussion. Besides which, if you were suddenly abducted by aliens before the lesson, there would be a fighting chance that the lesson could still be delivered, which would no-doubt score innumerable brownie-points!)
Inspectors should focus on the quality of the school’s planning process and link that to teaching and learning in lessons.
There are many different strategies for observations. Lead inspectors:
should not be constrained by a single model of observation but use their professional judgement to plan a lesson observation strategy that relates tothe precise evidence that is required. For example, inspectors may engage in:
- lesson observations, including part lesson observations of 25–30 minutes
- long observations of an hour or so, for example in infant/first/primary schools, special schools and pupil referral units inspectors may wish to conduct long observations in order to assess current standards of attainment through work scrutiny and discussions with pupils about their work; in secondary schools, inspectors may wish to carry out long observations in order to capture the best practice, or to diagnose weaker teaching and provide detailed evidence to underpin recommendations for improvement
- short observations of interventions or small group teaching such as phonics
- tracking of a class/group of pupils to assess pupils’ experience of a school day or part of a school day; if possible, inspectors should identify a class or classes that contain one or more pupils from the specific groups identified in the pre-inspection analysis (in this way, the experience, progress and learning of these pupils can be judged in the context of other pupils’ experience)
- short visits to a number of lessons, possibly with the headteacher or other senior staff member
- a clear focus on the quality of middle leaders in a school.
Any of the observation approaches above may be incorporated in the joint observations carried out with the headteacher and/or senior staff.
In some inspections, including most secondary schools, not all teachers will be observed.
In these circumstances the lead inspector should explain why this is the case in order to manage the school’s expectations.
The lead inspector should agree the lesson observation strategy with the inspection team and ensure the school clearly understands the rationale for this. Lesson observations should cover a range of subjects, key stages and ability groups. The school should not normally be informed in advance about the lessons to be visited unless they are joint observations.
Where a short observation is made (less than 25 minutes), a grade should be given for those aspects that it is possible to evaluate, for example achievement or teaching. Judgements made through short observations can only relate to the part of the lesson observed and not to the quality of teaching in the lesson as a whole.
Good intentions, even when set out in well-written plans, backed only by unsupported assertions, passionately stated promises and an aspirational outlook, or a recent change of headteacher following a period of poor leadership, do not in themselves provide sufficient proof of the capacity to achieve improvement.
16 Dec 2011 Ofsted
The participation of the headteacher or senior staff in joint lesson observations (Page 9)
If joint observations are to be undertaken, the lead inspector and headteacher should agree which lessons to select. If a teacher does not agree to a joint observation, this should not go ahead. (NB – in the Framework for September 2012 – this appears to have been removed!)
To start the inspection effectively, the initial meetings should normally consist of no more than:
- a brief meeting with the headteacher and/or senior leadership team to:
- receive an update on staff absence and replacements, pupils who are out of school and other practical issues
- consider whether there are any reasons why a teacher should not be observed, for example if they are subject to capability procedures where the use of observations by Ofsted may compromise those procedures see foot note7
- ensure that the school understands the key issues identified in the short pre-inspection briefing
Foot note 7
Where relevant, make sure the headteacher is aware that Ofsted’s evidence from lesson observations, whether joint or otherwise, cannot be used as evidence in competency/disciplinary proceedings..
23. Inspections must focus fully on teaching and how well pupils are learning and making progress. Inspectors should spend as much time as possible in classes, observing lessons, talking to pupils about their work, gauging their understanding and their engagement in learning, and their perceptions of the school. The deployment of inspectors should be purposeful but flexible, and combine focused observations of particular lessons with more random sampling of the school at work.
Inspectors must take The evaluation schedule for the inspection of maintained schools and academies8 into account when exercising their professional judgement.
Talking to pupils about their work, and gauging the extent of their understanding, is crucially important. It is the inspector who should decide which pupils to sample, recognising that information from the teacher is valuable when identifying a cross-section of pupils with particular characteristics. Scrutiny of the
Dialogue and feedback
The quality and professionalism of inspectors’ interaction with the staff of the school is essential to developmental inspection – a process that is valued for the insights it provides – and is integral to the code of practice. People whose work is being evaluated expect and deserve to know the inspector’s observations.
Principles governing inspection feedback to teachers
The inspection team should work to a protocol for feedback arrangements, which the lead inspector has explained to the school. Inspectors must be proactive in offering feedback to teachers.
For all observations of 25 minutes or more, inspectors should offer to arrange feedback with the teacher concerned. There may be occasions when feedback is offered for observations of less than 25 minutes, for example short reading/phonics sessions. The feedback arrangements for these sessions should be explained to the teacher prior to, or shortly after, the observation.
Feedback dialogue should address the main strengths and weaknesses of the activity observed, focusing on:
- pupils’ learning and the teacher’s contribution to it
- the quality of what was seen
- how it could be improved
and including where possible:
- the context and content of the lesson
- where it fits into a sequence or programme of lessons
- other teaching and learning activities that the teacher uses
- professional development experience related to teaching
- the extent to which leaders monitor teaching and provide pedagogical guidance and support for teachers
- the nature and impact of performance management.
What CPD have you requested/received?
How have your needs been identified, negotiated and addressed?
How do you take responsibility for developing your own practice?
Inspectors should be proactive about giving feedback. Not all feedback, however, will be concerned with lessons. Discussion of other aspects of the school’s quality, work or performance should involve the person responsible for that aspect, although inspectors will not provide feedback after each interview with a member of staff.
The evidence form (EF) remains the document for recording all first-hand evidence. The guidance in this document applies to all inspection remits but the term ‘EF’ is used throughout this form to refer to any generic means of recording inspection evidence.
Lesson evidence forms will generally contain personal data (and, by implication, other information concerning the performance of an individual being observed).
As such, they may be accessible under the Data Protection Act to the individual teacher who has been observed (via a ‘subject access request’) and should be completed with this in mind.
They should be clearly written in a way that another person will be able to understand. However, teachers should have no need to ask for session EFs to be disclosed if feedback is informative and helpful.
Since lesson EFs contain personal data, inspectors should take care how they report back on lesson observations, including dual observations, to headteachers and others.
Although it would be appropriate to discuss strengths and weaknesses in teaching generally, inspectors should be cautious about sharing grade data from individual lessons. In particular, inspectors should not share information for the purposes of performance management and should make clear that inspection evidence must not be used in this way.
Evidence forms relating to ‘learning walks’ or other forms of inspection trail should not contain any graded evaluations of the performance of individuals. However, they may still contain the personal data of those individuals and therefore should be treated as such.
When completing lesson evidence forms, including those that cover a number of short sessions, inspectors are asked to:
- record the session time/s and date; this will assist in positive identification if a subject access request is made
- avoid the use of colloquial language; write in a professional manner with the assumption that the EF might be seen by the teacher concerned
- The information contained within evidence forms may be open to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, especially where they do not comprise personal data.
Hope these few pointers help you to wade your way through all the documentation…let me know.