Wednesday 26 October 2011

The New Ofsted Criteria Explained!

This week we had a teacher training day focused on Ofsted. My academy will definitely be inspected this year, and the odds are it will be after January when the system changes, so the Academy Leadership Team were really keen for all teaching staff to get to know how the new system works, to maximise our chances of hitting Outstanding.

The training sessions were run by Cambridge Education. The maths, science and ICT teachers were put together in one classroom and we were led by Penny Holden, a senior principal consultant at Cambridge Education, who happens to be an ex-headteacher and ex-Ofsted inspector. She seemed to be the perfect person to deliver the training.

The first thing worth mentioning is the extremely cool free pen we were all given. Just look at it:

That's right, it has a highlighter on the end!!! How awesome?!!

Anyway, onto the actual training. The aim of the session was to learn how to observe colleagues the way an Ofsted inspector would, and how to deliver feedback in a contructive way. Through doing this, obviously you become better at delivering Ofsted-pleasing lessons, because you become aware of what they're "looking for".

We were given a handout of the things Ofsted look for when examining the quality of teaching. Here it is word for word:

  • 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 well teaching enables pupils to develop skills in reading, writing, communication and mathematics.
  • The extent to which well-judged and effective teaching strategies successfully engage pupils in their learning.
  • The extent to which teachers secure high quality learning by setting challenging tasks that are matched to pupils’ specific learning needs.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • The quality of teaching and other support provided for pupils with a range of aptitudes and needs, including for those with special educational needs and/or disabilities, so that their learning improves.
It is really really important that you don't look at this list like it's a checklist. You don't need to do every single one of them to get Outstanding, and getting 80% of them doesn't equal a Good.

One thing that Ms Holden kept saying which I think is really important is that Ofsted do not examine lessons, and they don't even really examine teaching: they examine LEARNING. So having peer assessment in a lesson isn't Outstanding unless the impact on learning is, so the pupils have to be seen to make more progress as a result.

Effective Feedback

I was observed recently and was given feedback from my mentor. I mentioned in this post how positive it made me feel because I had been praised and had been given some attainable targets. I feel like this was very helpful feedback. But there have been times, I must admit, when the feedback I've had after a lesson has not been helpful. I have felt demoralised and embarrassed after some. And I don't think it helped me improve either! As a proper teacher now, I am expected to give feedback to colleagues when I observe their lessons (during WOW week, for example) and I was really keen to find out how to do it properly.

Guidelines for Effective Feedback:
- Do it in a neutral place, sat at 90 degrees to each other on the same sort of chair.
- Don't hide any notes
-Never say "I liked..." You should always say ".... was good because" to make it more neutral. Basically always use the passive voice.
-Definitely never say "I wouldn't have done it that way..." or "I would have done this..." Say "You could try..." instead. What you would do isn't the best thing for another teacher to do. 
- Give evidence for everything you say. Direct quotes are best.
-Include lots of praise, even if it's meaningless like "well done you!" because teachers just don't get praised enough.
-Consider doing it coaching-style with loads of questions. However me and several other NQTs hate this! When someone says to me "how do you think you could improve x" I just want to scream at them "I don't know that's why I didn't do it!!! You obviously know so just tell me!!!" I know that coaching is effective but I do hate being subject to it.
-Most importantly, never ever start by saying "how do you think it went?" Because that's just setting them up to either talk themselves down, in which case the conversation becomes focused on the negative aspects, or talk themselves up, in which case you then have to bring them crashing down which is just mean. I have definitely been asked this before and I always respond by saying "erm...OK?" accompanied by a nervous smile. In future if someone asks this I'm going to politelty refuse to answer.

The leadership team in my academy will be observing everyone in the third and fourth weeks of next half term. It will be interesting to see whether they follow these guidelines themselves. They make it like a proper inspection, they give you a two day window so you don't know exactly which lesson it'll be. I'm quite excited about it actually, I'd like to see where I am at the moment. I was apparently an Outstanding trainee, which only equates to a Satisfactory/Good teacher as far as I can tell.

I found this training session incredibly useful and also inspirational. I got loads of ideas for lessons from watching the DVDs and from talking to colleagues. I wish I got to talk to colleagues more often and share good practice more, becaue it really is incredibly helpful.

A few of the more experienced teachers didn't find the training helpful at all though, and thought a lot of it was pointless. I suppose they've been through this sort of thing before many times. Or maybe they're more resistant to change or being taught something new? I find it funny that sometimes teachers make the worst students. For example, several teachers during the session were playing on their iPads or iPods and not listening! Someone was even planning lessons, she had her text book out and everything! I was ashamed, to be honest, some people are so rude! Even if you don't find the training helpful, you should still listen and be polite, which I know several of my colleagues did, to their credit.

If you want to know more about the training Cambridge Education can provide, visit their website. Or email me on nqtpi(at)gmail(dot)com and I can refer you to someone.

If you'd like to know more about observing and giving feedback, email me and I'll try to answer, but obviously I'm no expert! Or leave a comment below and then maybe an expert will wander along to this blog and answer it!

I hope you're enjoying half term. Time can be so cruel: slowing down during an awful lesson, speeding up during your week off!

Emma x x x

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