Tag Archives: ofsted

Educational Idealism @Mroberts90Matt

Recently, as has been commented on, EduTwitter seems to have been rocked with graceless mud-slinging and overloaded accusations from both sides of the debate. The Michaela Academy has caused massive verbal rants, cruel insults (from both sides) and elongated Twitter conversations. Seriously, I actually spent 20 minutes reading through one of them, captivated at how…pointless…the debate was and then realised I had wasted 20 minutes of my life.
(By the way, I say pointless not because there was nothing to be debated – rather that hundreds of tweets were casted and nothing really changed, just a negative tone on my Twitter feed).

Despite this raging issue, which as I write this still is ongoing, there are issues in education which everyone seems to agree with. So why is everyone using their efforts to engage in discussions which are having no impact other than to cause divide and paint others in the negative light. It is clear that those within Michaela feel there has been a hate campaign and that others feel that their methods go against their personal views. I have my views, yet I am not going to comment on who and which side I am in agreement with – there’s enough practitioners doing that very well.

I want to focus on those issues which have popped up alongside the Michaela debate that are either ongoing or that are changing. Unfortunately, it seems that these issues that everyone agrees with are more difficult to overcome or never seem to have an easy answer. I call these ‘Educational Ideals’ because we all know that there must be a better way – it just seems that right now there isn’t a clear way forward. However, if all educators unite their efforts to these, then positive change will happen. I will list a few examples here:

  1. Ending the SATs Anxiety

Here I am not calling for an end to SATs. They are necessary. I personally feel that we can  keep schools accountable by measuring the progress of pupils. However it is the way that these tests and results are used that are the issue. High-stakes testing is causing a strain on schools, staff and children and this negative source will have an impact. We can agree that the anxiety caused by SATs is unsustainable – what can teachers do to raise their voices and end this anxiety?

2. Reducing the Ofsted Workload

Here I am not calling for an end to Ofsted. They are necessary. I personally feel that we can keep schools accountable by ensuring there is a good level standard of teaching and learning going on in schools and they are maintaining educational excellence with outstanding leadership. However it is the way that these inspections and visits are conducted and prepared for that is the issue. High-stakes monitoring is causing a strain on schools and staff and this negative source will have an impact. We can agree that the fear caused by Ofsted inspections is unsustainable – what can teachers do to raise their voices and end this fear?

Fortunately teachers have been heard on this matter. Ofsted, however this has been done, have heard the outcries and they are starting to make more proactive steps to try and reduce the workload created by their visits. Ofsted produced a document a couple of years ago which outlined myths which unfortunately a number of schools still haven’t taken into consideration: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-inspection-handbook-from-september-2015/ofsted-inspections-mythbusting

As recently as the 18th January, Sean Harford posted a blog outlining again some myths about safeguarding in Ofsted inspections to try and make expectations clear and consistent. https://educationinspection.blog.gov.uk/2017/01/18/keeping-children-safe-in-education-and-ofsteds-role/

Of course some schools may be reluctant to listen to these assurances by Ofsted themselves in case they receive an inspector who still expects something that has been debunked. That’s when we can refer to these documents from Ofsted. We must spread this to all schools so all staff can be relieved of unnecessary burdens.

3. Ending the Marking Madness

Here I am not calling for an end to marking (…or do I mean feedback – that’s a whole other debate). It is necessary. I personally feel that we must  keep children aware of their learning by feeding back effectively on the learning they have recorded. However it is the way that this marking is monitored and in what format it is expected that is the problem. High-volume marking (in amount and expectation) is causing a strain on schools and staff and this negative source will have an impact on well-being if not managed. We can agree that the fatigue caused by marking is unsustainable – what can teachers do to raise their voices and end this fatigue?

Again, this is something which has had a recent development! Ofsted – in the updated myth-busting document mentioned earlier – have made it clear that they have no specific expectation on the quantity of marking. They state:
“Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.

Perfect news right? The days of complex colour coding and dialogue between teacher and pupil written endlessly in books are gone right? Ofsted have done their part and made it clear what they do and don’t expect – but again, not all schools will know/take this on board for fear they will be inspected by an inspector that will expect it. As such, their marking policy may not be reducing teacher’s workloads. And because of the statement highlighted in bold (Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy) whether you like it or not – if your school has a ridiculous marking policy, you will be expected by Ofsted to mark ridiculously!

So what is the answer? If your school is still implementing ineffective, workload-inducing marking policies then speak out. Say something to the SLT, show the Ofsted document and present a new strategy that will still fit in Ofsted guidelines but reduce workload.

Use our Teacher Voice

As educationalists we can make these ideals happen – but instead of throwing comments and causing divides, we must raise our voices on what really matters. Positive change is happening – let’s shout about it so ALL hear this and prevent any negative changes in the future.

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Teacher Voice Weekly Poll w/b 5th January

A New Year, a new commitment to post a weekly poll for the Teacher Voice blog!! Here goes…

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This week a discussion exploded on Twitter surrounding the writing of LO’s at the start of each lesson, how it takes up ~32 hours of education on a yearly basis and which schools still insist that LO’s are written.

According to Ofsted, it is no longer a requirement to write LOs at the start of each lesson. Some would rightly argue that it is a waste of learning time and can disrupt the flow of a lesson. Some might argue that it helps children to focus on the skills and knowledge that they are developing in that lesson.

Personally, I have my views, which I will not state here as this is a neutral poll. My school does still have children write LOs at the start of each piece of work. What about yours – does your school require chn to write an LO at the start of each piece of work? Do your children have to write LOs and if not, what do they write instead? A title? Do they have to write any kind of heading at all? If your answer is no, then I’d be interested to hear what they do instead in the comments section below.

Please post and share this so that we can get as many votes as possible to see a bigger picture!

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Teacher Voice Weekly Poll w/b 29th September 2014

Well, time for another weekly poll. Last week’s poll focused on behaviour management, asking what you thought the most important aspect of behaviour management was. This was partly off the back of an NQT Conference I attended but also with Ofsted’s recent publication on low-level disruption I thought this was also appropriate. The results were mainly split between two answers but one clear winner with 70% – setting high expectations from the start. Obviously, all the aspects are important but that was deemed the most important. The poll is still open so feel free to add your voice!

This week is off the back of a previous blog post in August. Grouping by ability, or setting, is a practice that is widely debated and has well documented pros and cons. I looked at this in one of my final papers at University and had negative views. However, now I’m using it for Maths in my own classroom by topic rather than the same sets for the whole year I’m finding some really good benefits from this! So what are your views:

Should setting by ability be avoided at all costs or utilised to support teaching and learning? Or is there a time and a place where it would be effective?
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Does Grading Improve Teaching? by @Mroberts90Matt

Context

With the release of the New Osted Handbook recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the various changes detailed therein. Twitter is one of the places where such discussions are taking place, which seems appropriate considering my latest blog post encouraging teachers to make their voice heard on platforms such as Twitter. Many views have been expressed and comments made.

One of the changes that I have been personally involved in a bit over the past few days is around the grading of lessons in lesson observations and the value of this practice. There was a great blog post written by @Primary1Teacher (see here) about this change. He states that the grading of lessons is a practice that should not be abandoned and helps avoid any misinterpretation about where a teacher is in their practice and where they need to go. A well articulated blog post and one well worth a read. I’ve also had the opportunity to view and take part in a Twitter discussion with @gazneedle, @LearningSpy and @regierob and others around lesson grading, which brought up a number of points and views. One view that came up that is important to consider is that lesson grading gives the senior leadership a quantitative way to see how effective the teaching is across their school.

Lesson Observations - to grade or not to grade?
Lesson Observations – to grade or not to grade?

Discussion

As mentioned by others, there are positives to grading lessons. One is that if a lesson is graded it does give some sort of measurable value for leaders to look at to see where improvements need to be made in their school. It gives an overall snapshot of what teaching is going on in their school.

It could be argued, however, that lesson observations are not an effective means of determining quality of teaching that goes on in a classroom. It is possible (and it does go on I believe) that there are great teachers that do not thrive in the created pressure of a lesson observation, formal or informal. This phenomenon can be likened to a child who in class can time and time again show that they have accrued great knowledge, understanding or skills in a subject area. However, when put into an exam situation they are unable to replicate the same evidence due to the conditions.

The example of an exam situation for a child brings to my thought process another point. In exams, children are often described as having to jump through certain hoops to get the points they need for a particular grade. As I’m sure many have noticed, the Ofsted Handbook now states that not one teaching style will be preferred over another. In other words, Ofsted will be ‘looking at’ the teaching in front of them, not ‘looking for’ certain criteria to be met (this is mentioned further in David Didau’s excellent blog post here). This will lead to greater scrutiny on children’s progress, work and responses rather than the one off lesson they see on the day. I think we’d all celebrate the fact that teachers are being given more room to teach to a style that suits them and not one prescribed by Ofsted (as long as progress is being made). This does mean, however, that grading individual lessons will be problematic as there are not specific things being looked for.

If lessons should be continued to be graded, how could it be ensured that each lesson will be fairly graded when there is now no ‘grading criteria’ of one perfect teaching style (which we all know there isn’t one anyway, even if Ofsted tried to suggest there was). There are suggestions that even when Ofsted did have a set of things to look for, lesson observations are subjective processes anyway. What one observer may consider to be innovative, another may feel is unnecessary.

I personally feel that it isn’t possible to effectively grade a lesson between 4 areas. How do you discern between a lesson that is extremely ‘Outstanding’ and only just ‘Outstanding’. One look at the Teaching Standards shows that there are a large number of factors that can influence how good a lesson really is. To try and allocate one judgement from many factors can cause confusion and inaccurate results. Now of course, the debate of whether a lesson observation should be considered as an effective method of determining the quality of teaching is another debate. However, it is clear that judging the quality of teaching into a particular ‘grade’ (which can have a great impact on the professional themselves) can sometimes be one that has it’s issues, more so than simply giving a teacher five things they can do to improve and them working on those.

Conclusion

There are many things to take into account when considering whether it’s worth awarding a lesson a certain grade. However, I would lean toward the point that it is a little value to give a grade on a lesson. This is not to protect the feelings of the teacher, whilst some would consider this important. However, my views on this derive from the fact that lesson observations can be unreliable anyway and that I personally don’t see the point. Whether I am an Outstanding teacher or one that Requires Improvement, I just need to know what I need to change to make myself a better teacher and one that provides the best learning experiences for the children in my class.

Should lessons be graded? Will that be an effective method of improving teaching and learning?
Should lessons be graded? Will that be an effective method of improving teaching and learning?

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The Classroom Environment by @Mroberts90Matt

Context

So, summer has officially come. All schools are now devoid of their young learners until September. This means that the onus is on me as the incoming NQT to go into school during August to set up my classroom. How much time will I need? What are the vital things that will need to be present in the physical make up of the classroom I’ll be teaching in the next 10 months?

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Development

I have a number of key aspects in my mind that I want to transfer to the walls of the classroom. One thing that I feel strongly about is having a problem solving area on a Numeracy board, a place where the children can challenge themselves at any time. The rest of the board will have helpful information to support knowledge and understanding in the topic we are working on at the time.

I want a word wall. It’s something which I saw in another classroom which I thought was a great idea. I do think, however, that I need to have the definition of the words displayed with them. I will be working in a school where most of the children speak English as an Additional Language and, whilst they all speak English fairly fluently, it will still be important to support their understanding.

Of course, there’ll be the usual space for children to display their work and take pride in their accomplishments. This will hopefully encourage them to put more effort into their work. Beyond these I’m still thinking over what else to display. I’ll need to go in over the next week or so to see what I’m working with now that the previous class teacher will have vacated the room.

Doubts

However, sometimes I can’t help but feel that all this preparation may be little wasted. Okay, if Ofsted walk through the door they will expect to see the learning environment used effectively that can support the learning that goes on. As a result, the school leadership will want to see the room displays are put to good use.

And yet, how much of these displays will the children use? I suppose a big part of that will indeed be how effective my organisation is and the quality of the display choices. Even then, it will also be important to make sure that there is not an overload. If there is too much going on in the displays then it will become difficult for the children to pick out the information they need at that time.

Moving Forward

So, it looks like my next couple of weeks will be spent on Pinterest trying to gather ideas. It will be important to recognise that the physical learning environment I create for my class will not necessarily be perfect to begin with. However, with consistent assessment with the children, I can then develop those areas so that they serve the purposes of the individuals they are there for, the children.

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