Monthly Archives: June 2014

OfSted and NQTs – Who watches the Watchmen?

Checklist? - Check Looking over your shoulder? - Check Clean shoes? - Check

Checklist? – Check
Looking over your shoulder? – Check
Clean shoes? – Check

The following for those who haven’t already read the article is from The Guardian 04-06-14:

Posted by Michael Allen and Lucy Ward Wednesday 4 June 2014 15.56

From Monday, Ofsted will send inspectors to inspect trainees’ teaching in the autumn term as they start work as newly-qualified teachers.

Previously, Ofsted only inspected trainees in the summer of their training year. But the aim of the new plan is to ensure that new teachers implement what they have learnt while training in the classroom, particularly in managing behaviour and instilling discipline.

In a further change, inspectors will also judge whether teachers are dressed professionally and demonstrate professional conduct. While the inspectorate says it is not laying down a prescriptive uniform – ties will not be compulsory, it insists – it argues teachers should be dressed “in a way that befits their professional status”. Training providers who do not ensure trainees dress appropriately will be marked down.

Some teacher training providers have not prepared trainees adequately for their induction year, according to Ofsted. In a speech in January, chief inspector of schools in England, Michael Wilshaw, said Ofsted had “not been as demanding as it should have been with training providers who have sent newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) out into schools unprepared for the rigours of the classroom.”

Ofsted is particularly concerned that 40% of new teachers leave the profession within five years, with poor pupil behaviour cited as a key reason. The figure is a “national scandal”, Mr Wilshaw has said.

Sean Harford, Ofsted national director for initial teacher education, said the new two-stage inspection process would help raise standards, with further visits scheduled for those teachers needing support to improve. “Teaching is a tough yet very rewarding job. So it is important that the training new teachers receive is the best it can be. Trainees should learn how to promote good behaviour in the classroom so they can focus on teaching, and children and young adults can focus on learning.

“Through our new two-step inspection process we will make sure that teachers are putting into practice in the autumn what they learned in their training. I expect this new way of inspecting will help to raise standards. When we judge providers to require improvement or are inadequate we will support and challenge them to improve; we then will re-inspect them the following year.”

When judging teacher training providers, inspectors will now also have to evaluate how far they have tried to engage schools and colleges in challenging circumstances, including those deemed to require improvement, in training partnerships. They will examine whether teacher supply has increased as a result, particularly in areas of the country where recruitment is difficult.


So, in September OfSted will be specifically inspecting Newly Qualified Teachers to ‘ensure that they are applying their classroom learning of behaviour management and instilling discipline’. This will include professional dress and conduct.

Here’s an idea:

Let’s inspect and scrutinize some of the most vulnerable teachers, NQTs, you know the ones who need help and support to succeed in an incredibly challenging job.

Just as you start and before you can really secure your place – we will come in and check you are dressed right, speak right and can ‘deal with the pressures’ – that we have imposed.

I suspect there might even be a check that fingernails are clean and clipped and that hair is regulation length.


OK, so perhaps gold spangled hot pants are not quite right, but who is deciding? This has the potential to promote some very shallow values. Teachers should wear dress that ‘befits professional status’. This is incredibly subjective.

Where will they stand on tattoos and piercings?

Are ear-rings OK? For men and women?

What about a nose stud? Will that make someone an ineffective teacher?


I have tattoos, not visible and very small, but I know someone with a large tattoo on their arm.

They cover it, but it has been seen.

Is that ‘Inadequate’, Grade 4 dress or conduct? I think not.


This guy does a remarkable job promoting anti-bullying and anti-prejudice in schools – Michael Wilshaw would faint!?

Promoting anti-bullying and non-prejudice

The Scary Guy – Promoting anti-bullying and non-prejudice


I know another teacher who wears their PE kit, every day, whether or not they are teaching PE, does that mean they are not dressed in a way which befits their professional status?


As a recently qualified teacher some years ago, I experienced my first inspection. The Lead Inspector toured the school with the Head Teacher and commented to her something I have always remembered and admired:

“You have sure a wonderful range of individual teachers in your school. From the very experienced lady in Nursery to the young man with all the jewellery and bracelets (that was me by the way), it is lovely that your children get to see a variety of personalities.”

So, my wearing of 7 rings and 5 bracelets didn’t concern him, he liked it. Would this new regimen perhaps have frowned on it and ‘marked my training provider down’ for not teaching me what to put on in the morning?

I’m not sure that my College Tutor would’ve had the inclination to scrutinise my wardrobe.


I struggle to begin to express how terrifying this whole process is becoming.

In what sense does it help?


Mr Wilshaw tells us that:

‘…training providers have sent NQTs out into schools unprepared for the rigours of the classroom…’

We all know this.

NQTs know this.

Having your own class for the 1st time is terrifying. It is the first time that YOU are responsible for setting the climate for learning and not just adapting yourself into one that is already set by a teacher/school during your placements. It takes a little time. It is tough. We learn and we are taught by experienced colleagues, it is what we do and the vast overwhelming majority get it right.

Trainee teachers are not taught a great deal about behaviour management. That is why so many cite it when they choose to leave. I never found that learning about the work of child psychologists helped me very much – I know my Maslow, but have never really felt it was a tool for my practice.

Teachers don’t learn to be good at classroom and behaviour management in a tutorial or lecture. They do it through experience. If they are lucky they learn from good and outstanding teacher mentors during placements and from their colleagues in school. But it often takes a little time to find a way that works for the individual and develop a range of strategies which suit a range of different pupils.

We encourage children to make mistakes and build resiliency from it – but teachers don’t seem to be permitted to do it.

We take risks in being innovative with teaching methods and with new technologies and all is well, but if something doesn’t work there is the risk that if you are seen to go wrong – you have a problem and this absolutely should not be the case.

Sean Harford says that ‘…this will help raise standards…’.

Is this because OfSted is held in such high regard and that the teaching profession has so much faith in it?

If we want new innovative teachers to stick around – let’s support them. Let’s teach them, not scrutinize every move. That is why they leave!

Imagine if you will… it is Week 2 in September… OfSted are coming to inspect, not your school, but you.

Are you excited and looking forward to the prospect?


Are you filled with self-doubt, because now, it isn’t just about you, but your school, your job, your colleagues…?


Seems a little harsh to me.


If ‘poor pupil behaviour’ is cited as the primary reason – is this being addressed in ITT? And not just through relentless Ofsted edict.

Let us not say the pie tastes bad, when we haven’t carefully judged what the cook put in.

If the recipe is wrong, the food will taste bad.

Improve training on understanding pupil behaviour and managing it, then we can perhaps alleviate the pressure put on new teachers by preparing them for the real world inside their own classroom.

I have written about this before:

I worry that this design will not stem the tide of new teacher leaving within 5 years, it might make it 5 months!

What the teaching profession needs is a regular influx of new minds, fresh ideas and innovation.

While this is not provided solely by newly qualified teachers, they are a source of it and the NQTs of today are the Headteachers and School Leaders of tomorrow. They have enormous value. Why do we seek to undermine, under value and over scrutinise before they have had chance to show what they are capable of?


I would really like to know what are other peoples opinions on this.



A blog post on blogging…

So, blogging…



It makes me quite sad really and I’m not sure why.

I think it is more of a sadness that comes from working with people who aren’t innovative or can’t see the value in something they don’t understand themselves. Even worse, people who don’t like something purely because it wasn’t their idea.

Blogging is great. Professionals do it, teachers do it, musicians, reporters, children, teens, old, young… there is no apparent limit on who blogs and about what they blog – the joys of internet freedom (unless of course you are in China or North Korea, but perhaps there is a whole different argument there!)

I started blogging in 2007 and started my first independent ‘teaching’ blog in July 2008:

I set up a whole school worth of class blogs, trained staff on how it was done and what a powerful tool it could be and how it could link our children’s learning with school, home, community and the world at large, it was great and off we went. I led the way, updating 2,3 sometimes 4 times a week, I had a slot in my timetable where I trained the Y6s how to do and let them add content, they worked with Y5 and so on, it was awesome – sadly these class blogs seem to no longer be on the web as proof of this work.

One moves job and sometimes the work you leave behind is surpassed by something else as priorities change.

I did manage to transfer my own across though, I had to remove a few bits and it isn’t really a good example anymore but here it is, the white whale…

It’s like an eBook now, almost exactly like the original, but somehow it just lacks the emotional character.

This is one of my favourite posts because of the amazing discussion it generated with Y3 children:


What was sad is that, I stopped. Why did I stop?

Well I was told it wasn’t valuable use of the children’s time, it wasn’t productive, it didn’t seem to serve a purpose…

I argued, but lost and in the end I was the only one bothering and eventually even that slowly drew to a close. That is what’s sad.

Now, some 6 years and 3 jobs later, I find Twitter loaded with people creating fabulous work with class blog and children blogging to a wider audience for feedback and for opportunity to share their work; I am talking to you @DeputyMitchell and others. Wonderful work with children writing brilliant stuff and sharing it! I try as much as I can to comment on those works – just to show the system works and of course it does.

An example:


I was doing this so long ago and I stopped because I let someone else’s opinion cloud my judgement – shame on me!

It took until January 2010, new job, new opportunities until I started again properly and this time it took off in a big way. Children, parents and staff loved it – only this time the leadership embraced it too.

The result:

A blog which is now redundant (Left the school July 2011) with 354,959 hits (at time of writing) and still rising steadily, even though no one monitors it any more. I see ex-pupils from time to time and they tell me that they still go back and look now, using some of the links in their work.

Now that is the opposite of sad.

That turns my frown upside down!


And so here I am again – back on the horse so to speak. (Bl-orse? Bl-onkey? Not sure)

I love blogs.

Reading the thoughts of other professionals is one of the best ways to gain an insight into what is happening everywhere else. If nothing, it has taught me that I didn’t realise how little I knew! Well, now I am working to rectify that.

At the moment there is a lot I would like to say and a lot I probably shouldn’t! I will strike a balance and keep adding little pieces of my mind to this page as and when it comes to me.

I can also say that, my class will be getting a blog very soon.

As I draw to the end, I think this is a more a cathartic post than a educational one.

In reflection, I knew I was onto a good thing and I let it go.

I can categorically say that I will not be doing that again. Lesson learned.

So finally, if you find yourself with nothing better to do, click here and practice this. It started as a joke and 2 boys learned the whole thing, off by heart, at home and performed to the class. Why? Because they wanted to, they chose to and because they could!!

Riding back in to blogging… hopefully the right direction!

A reflection on ‘How would you like to be observed?’

Another reblog, yes, I know, sorry.

I am all for (sort of) a criteria driven observation, but not for a ‘Handbook’ method.

One size does not fit all, and no, not under any circumstances should there be a favoured teaching style.

When I have observed my peers, or they have observed me, those are the times when I feel that I have benefited the most as both the observer and observed.

As I said in the first post on this blog, “I am a teacher. I like to think that I am a good one at that – not spectacular – effective.” I have worked with and still do work with some exceptional teachers, people who I admire hugely and have had the pleasure to have told them that. When they visit my classroom and tell me what they felt worked well, I appreciate it and above all, I believe it. When they tell me what they think could have improved it, I am inclined to try it, quickly, because I trust them.

The current OfSted model doesn’t inspire that type of instant step-change of improvement, but it does expect it and woe betide those who do not deliver. Teachers in RI schools and being visited by HMI can testify to that I am sure. The inspector wanders in and out. They then categorize what they have seen and what it means for children’s learning. What about the child who is observed on Tuesday and Wednesday, but makes ‘no visible’ progress. On Thursday, when the inspector has shuffled off to wherever they shuffle off to, has assimilated all that information and experience and can do it, with confidence. No-one saw that. A jury of my peers, however, will be able to appreciate that measure of progress.

A few quotes from #sltchat (01/06/14):

  • Wonder Academy ‏@Wonderacademy: #sltchat No one can enter a room and evaluate progress, effectiveness of teaching or understand context of lesson in 20 minutes.
  • Stephen Tierney ‏@LeadingLearner: We mustn’t become dependent on OfSted for info about QoT. This should be our domain as schools and teachers – we should take lead #sltchat
  • Urban Teacher ‏@urban_teacher: Lesson Observations is only part of the picture – A grade doesn’t develop a teacher but genuine support & mentoring does!

I like the idea of schools in networks sharing staff, peer to peer work, based around specific focuses. Where there can be an open dialogue and discussion between teachers who can in turn learn from each other and their surroundings. There is also a strong case for visiting teachers not only who are held up to be leaders in their field but those who perhaps need support. You can learn much in either environment.

I want to get better – that is my aim.

I do this not by external judgement, I do this by continuing to learn.

There are many teachers I know who still cling to the ‘judgement’.

“He said it was GOOD, so I’m alright.” or “Requires Improvement?! Rubbish, what does she know?!”

I feel for them, if they decide they are alright, what is next? How precisely do they intend to improve?

I like it when someone visits me and gives me clear and honest feedback, I like that culture. Those formal and informal comments about anything that goes on, followed by, “Have you thought about…?”, ” I read that…” I don’t necessarily need to be given a label as I once did.

It comes to the culture of leadership and development.

What do we as teachers want from observation? Validation or Development.

If it is the first, then we might have an issue, but if what we really want and need, if what we can convince SLT (like me) and governors, LA and OfSted is that we just want to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday we might get somewhere.

We might do it smiling too.


@johnpearce_jp: (07-05-14)

Judgement without action is thinking without doing.