Ofsted: A Teacher’s Perspective

Well – we have had The Call and Ofsted have come and gone. Amazing how the tension generated by a single organisation can mount over years and then be gone in over a day (of course if the inspection goes to plan). Recently a number of headteachers and senior leaders have shared their experiences which have been extremely useful for others in preparing for their own visits. In fact, we only just looked over an example of one of these recounts in a Key Stage meeting literally the Tuesday before we had the call – which was spookily convenient. As it turns out, it was very accurate to our experience.

The New Framework 2018

Many of you will know that the framework for Ofsted has changed. In terms of Good schools, one of four outcomes can happen from a Section 8 inspection now:

1: The school stays Good.

2. The school shows evidence they are Outstanding. However, they keep the label of ‘Good’ until another full inspection in 1-2 years.

3. The school shows evidence they are Requires Improvement. However, they keep the label of ‘Good’ until another full inspection in 1-2 years.

4. The school does not have adequate provision of safeguarding for children and adults in the school. As such, they are automatically judged as ‘Inadequate’.

On top of this, in order for a school to now be Outstanding, they must be outstanding in all areas. In the past reports, a school could be Outstanding in most areas and maybe Good in one area and be deemed as Outstanding overall. Not anymore.

With this context in mind, what I wish to do now is highlight how this new one-day inspection approach framework has had an impact on the regular classroom teacher’s experience of this significant day in anyone’s teaching career. I’m hoping this may be useful for anyone who is expecting Ofsted to come any time soon.

The Call

12:25pm – Wrapping up a Maths lesson focusing on dividing by 10, 100 and 1000. It’s gone well, just thinking about pushing the concept further by challenging my lower set. One of our AHTs then come into my room quite quickly. ‘Meeting in the staff room, 12:30’ were the words said. I look back blankly – everyone knows what this means…suddenly I’m very focused on tidying up the classroom and ensuring everyone has finished what they need to in their books in the final few minutes.

12:30pm – Never seen a group of 40 or so people gather so quickly. Indeed, we are told the call has come. We are instructed to send any final adjustments to our timetables to the DHT and…well…get ready! And then, the staffroom vanishes…was quite surreal really. I didn’t go anywhere, I figured that I needed to eat and the time to sort things out would come. Typically I would usually have PPA on a Monday afternoon which would have been really useful but unfortunately the cover for half of it was going to be absent meaning I’d have to catch it up later in the week. So, I ate lunch.

2:15pm – Finally got rid of the class…because they were just getting in the way 😉 (it’s not like I do the job of a teacher for the children, right?) I sort out my classroom a bit, gather the resources for my Maths lessons the next day. I figure that the Maths lessons I had planned originally should surely be the ones I go ahead with. I aim to teach the best lessons all the time to show progression and enable the children to make the best progress – so why change it? I’ve heard the phrase ‘I’ll save that lesson for Ofsted’ and maybe so in the day when Ofsted would observe a whole lesson and give a judgement – but as the next day would prove those days are very much gone (and good riddance in my opinion).
We also had a visit from an AHT informing the children about the visit tomorrow and letters sent home to parents about the Ofsted questionnaire.

3:30pm – Children have gone, staff back in the staff room to listen to more details that have been given on the phone by the Lead Inspector. We were told that they would be focusing on the key areas for development from the previous inspection – challenging the more able, curriculum leadership and marking. However, the inspector said that he actually wouldn’t be taking any interest in marking as Ofsted have no set agenda on what marking should look like or what frequency – they may review the school marking policy should the need arise. Thank goodness for the Ofsted-busting myths! We were informed the inspectors would be taking a learning walk around the school between 9:45am-11am but that would be all the observations they would make of lessons. We were told the general timetable of the day and asked to send a selection (1 HA, 1 MA and 1 LA) of all books to the Head’s office. We even got to choose the books! So far so good I thought.
One thing I did think that was odd was that, as Maths Lead, there was no time set aside in the timetable to speak to the Maths Team. This was interesting considering Maths was mentioned as an area to look at in the last inspection and we had a Maths subject-specific Ofsted inspection in 2015. Our Head though wanted us to be on standby in case we could get to speak to them.

3:45pm – All hands on deck! Displays neatened, books up to date, documents updated in files, targets highlighted…

5:30pm – Our Head ordered in some pizza – was nice to sit together for 10mins and talk about anything other than what was going to be happening the next day! Was a nice touch!

5:30pm-7:30pm – I left at 7:30pm. I know others stayed longer but I figured that everything I needed to do at school (marking, printing etc) was done. I wasn’t completely ready yet with slides or certain lessons but that could be done at home…

The Day

5:00am – Up early. Out of choice. I went to bed by 10:45pm which is fairly early for me. Get my playlist on, finish off the afternoon sessions – bring on the day!

8:25am – All staff meet in the staff room to be introduced to the two inspectors who would be in school. Was a very short introduction, the lead inspector took the lead. He explained that ‘they had been in our position before’, they would be in classrooms at the most 10-15 mins and to please just do the wonderful things we always do. Done – everyone leaves to put the final touches together.

8:40am – The inspectors take to the playground and speak to parents. We are out in the playground (as usual) to greet families to the school. I was also informed that the inspectors just would not have time to meet with the Maths Team. Little disappointed by this but the reason was that they had no concerns about Maths. In fact, it became quickly apparent that they had a very interesting significant agenda…

10:35am – The door opens….enter the Lead Inspector and my Head. I continue the flow of my lesson. After a couple of minutes I am beckoned over by my Head and the inspector asks me about the teaching of Reading across the curriculum. He requests to see a Topic book. Again – I was allowed to go and choose one! I explain our previous topic and how reading was evidenced in the children’s books. This is my one complaint I have of my inspection – I didn’t get any eye contact or even a thank you for leaving my children’s learning to show evidence in my books. That’s all. I was also asked to see evidence of Reading in my Science books (easy). Then they left.

To be honest, that was all my involvement directly with the Ofsted inspectors. I was asked at 11:40am to assist the Head in compiling some data that we did have but just needed to put together neatly for the inspectors. Other than this, I went about teaching my other lessons and didn’t see them again.

What was very clear was that actually, they were not interested in the previous action points from the last inspection. What I gathered was there was a clear focus and setting of specific meetings with certain people on three specific areas. Those three areas will have been identified by the data about the school. It is apparent that because there is only one day to complete the inspection that the inspectors come in with a preconceived judgement, some key areas to look at and they see if anything is being done about those problem areas. There simply isn’t any time to look at things the school is doing well and celebrate their successes. As it turns out our school did well.

I can certainly see positives from this new framework (less time observing and judging lessons, ‘light-touch’ approach’) – however, this does cause problems such as not getting a full picture and focusing only on issues in the school and of course, if a school is now Outstanding, it will not be labelled as Outstanding for another 1-2 years.

If anyone has any further questions about the Ofsted Section 8 experience feel free to ask. Email or DM me @Mroberts90Matt

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