Category Archives: OfSted

Life without Ofsted

A friend of mine (catatonic34) and also a friend of the author of this post directed me to this and I thought that it needed sharing.

So here it is!

This post, in it’s entirety, is taken from:

susanwalter7942.apps-1and1.net/life-without-ofsted/

Susan is currently Deputy Head of Primary at Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She believes passionately in education; making learning relevant, challenging and exciting for all learners, children and adults alike.

Enjoy


Life Without OfSted

The one thing I’ve not missed whilst being out of England this year, has been the constant cloud of Ofsted.
The constant cloud of Ofsted.

It’s not been there.

 

I’ve been working under a clear, sunny, Malaysian sky, and I love it.

I’ve not been able to move from under the cloud completely though as many of my friends, both teachers and parents, in England have still been in its shadow.

This blog therefore is for all those teachers and parents who, like me, just know there has to be a better way.Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 8.29.18 AM

When I was an exchange student in Kansas, I came across the character called Pigpen from Schulz’ Charlie Brown cartoon. Pigpen was a rather down-trodden, weary character who was always followed by a cloud. Kansans particularly related to him due to the unpredictability and harshness of their weather which meant they, like him, often felt they had a constant cloud companion.

As a teacher in London,  I often thought of Pigpen when Ofsted was mentioned in meetings; the metaphorical clouds would appear above everyone’s heads and block out the sun. You get the picture? Now hold it as I describe what I feel the impact of the constant cloud of Ofsted is:

1. Everything becomes subordinated to the Ofsted report

Everything.

If a school doesn’t get a good report everybody loses. Everybody is tainted. School leaders, teachers, students, parents. Everybody. De facto.

The stress this puts on schools adversely affects everything, as school leaders and staff prioritise time and other scarce resources to Ofsted preparedness in the knowledge that this is the metric by which they will be judged should an inspection occur. As inspection dates become more imminent, notices containing key facts and reminders start to appear in staff toilets and above the sink in the staff room. These messages are reiterated in parent news letters and notices with the uncomfortable feeling of ‘you should already know this‘ about them. Individual students suddenly move from being children with their own specific needs and uniquenesses to being 2% in attainment data. And if that ’2%’ is a level 3 in Year 6 then they are all of a sudden not doing well enough. Let’s do more booster maths, more booster writing, more spelling and grammar practice – and of course do less of everything else that might just motivate that child to come to school more ready to learn, or that rewards the exceptional progress they have made since joining the school in Year 4 with no English at all!

The constant cloud is moving closer…

 

2. An excuse culture is created and re-enforced

Do as I say – not as I do.

This must be the one phrase or type of behaviour guaranteed to most quickly destroy adult authenticity, and with it trust, in the eyes of students.

Therefore, when students see schools seemingly prostituting their ethics and standards as they prepare for and pander to criteria they don’t necessarily believe, it’s not surprising they ignore the rhetoric and decide they can pick and choose too. I know that sounds really harsh, but it is true. If children are reminded what to say and how to say it when an inspector comes to visit, then what is that telling our brilliant young creative thinkers and independent inquirers?  These qualities are great everyday in the classroom, but the message has gone out loud and clear that when it really matters, repeating the party line is actually more important.

I am beginning to feel more and more like Pigpen…

Life’s not fair

OK it’s a fact, but we all know how much time and energy we all spend coaching, comforting and cajoling students to arm them with the tools to overcome the fact that life is not fair and not use it as an excuse. Ofsted reports are in danger of actually institutionalising the excuse though as we see some schools with strong cohorts achieving expected attainment levels with satisfactory progress outperform those with weaker cohorts whose students soar but have not yet quite made the attainment grade seen as ‘average’ by the time they are eleven. Let’s not even start the argument about the additional support given everyday by school staff to children from poorer backgrounds and more challenging circumstances just to get the children to a point where they are at least ready to learn.

 

3. The collapse of common sense

One of the most frequent comments teachers make about the joy of working with their students is their unbridled, untainted, uncompromising, honesty and enthusiasm. They tell it like it is. When they get it they get it. And they do get it! They realise early that when Ofsted come to visit a game is being played and that they have a role to play in that game.

Some know that they might get two unexpected days at home to help with their ‘behaviour choices’, others need to remember what their brand new maths target is and that if they say the right thing to the visitors, they will probably get an easy merit. They get that their unique, inspired, and individual opinions and ideas are not trusted. Not to be shared. They get it. Our kids are smart.

Tragically, I know of a school who won a days visit by Frank Lampard, Chelsea hero to some and England hero to many more – an inspiring role model to most primary aged boys and girls. Anyway, the day that he was available to visit the school, there was already a trip planned to the local park so they turned Frankie down. They turned him down because the school trip had more academic value than a kick about with one of the top England players at the time. Come on! Common sense is being squeezed out here. I can’t say that was because of Ofsted, as I am sure that any inspector worth their salt would see the value in such an opportunity, however in the school’s panic about results and attainment levels, a football day did not fit into their plan.

 

SO HOW HAS IT BEEN DIFFERENT WITHOUT THE CLOUD?

I like to ask questions. I ask lots of them. The biggest difference I have experienced in my new life without Ofsted is the answer to most of these questions.

‘We do this because we believe it is best for our students!’

It is as simple as that.

No cloud. Just an intrinsic motivation to do the right thing by our children.

It means that we have the freedom to look at exactly what we want our students to achieve, and decide on how best to support them in that achievement. I was, and still am, so excited about this that I did not immediately factor in however, the immense responsibility that comes with that freedom.  There is no government intervention.  Just us.  Brilliantly liberating but actually quite a challenge to ensure we really do get things right.

Without the extrinsic model imposed by the ever changing Ofsted framework, we can actually focus everything on what we believe is best for our students. No sudden additions, changes or u-turns, but a school defined purpose and clear direction.

Lucky you I hear you shout.  Well yes!

A year ago, I might have just been talking about the exciting opportunities to choose what to teach and how to teach it; the benefits of having specialist music, art, PE, MFL, Learning Support and EAL teachers; the opportunity to continue to develop our own unique curriculum which is relevant to our international cohort. All pretty reasonable I think.

Today I still believe all those things are hugely important but there is a catch.

When a concerned parent comes to me and asks me how I know that our curriculum is going to equip their child with the skills, knowledge and understanding they will need for the future I relish the opportunity to highlight all the unique opportunities we offer our students. I talk about the curriculum content and our approach to holistic education, and then move on to the detail of their child’s individual progress and well being.

A year ago I believed that this would be enough but sadly it is not.

I am now beginning to understand the immense responsibility that comes with our freedom from Ofsted.

Much as I am respected in my professional capacity, I am after all, only one teacher who thinks they know what they are doing. Many of our parents want much more than this. And as a parent, I actually understand that.

So, without the dictat of the UK government, league tables and the ongoing ‘validation’ of Ofsted, we seemingly have little to go on at the Primary level here.

Except that we do.

 

1. Responsibility not subordination

We take full responsibility for the choices we make at our school.

We choose to teach the National Curriculum of England and Wales in the most part, not because we are told to, but because the content for the core subjects is good and we believe it is the best for our students.

We choose to use externally validated tests to measure student’s potential and actual attainment. I can’t believe that after never being a fan of SATS testing, I am now saying that we need these tests. But we do. We use them to support our teacher assessments and demonstrate that we are setting appropriate challenge and supporting progress for all of our students.

We choose to publish our academic results on the school web site too. There are no league tables published but our parents have a way of working that out for themselves when they want to.

We choose to do these things, not because we have to, but because we believe that external, trustworthy benchmarks are important, and because they give parents the validation they need.

 

2. Ensuring common sense becomes common practice

We might not have Ofsted, but competition and common sense dictates that we ask for external feedback and find ourselves a critical friend to ensure that we are on track and remain focussed on our key purpose which is: ‘To educate the youth of the world to take their productive place as leaders in the global community.’ A big ask and again, a reminder of the responsibility we have taken on.

We choose to be accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) to both endorse and insure the quality of education we provide, and to support our ongoing school improvement planning process.

We also recognise that going it alone is not always the best choice, so value our collaborations with many other schools in the area. We choose to affiliate ourselves with:  Association of International Malaysian Schools (AIMS), East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) and Federation of British International Schools in South East Asia (FOBISSEA) to give our students and teachers the opportunity to engage with, learn from, compare and compete with others from similar schools.

External validation and engagement, however, is not enough to instil common sense and reward those who use it. That can only come from our students, teachers and parents. They can’t do it by themselves though, so we support them with constantly reviewed systems and support mechanisms.

For example, teachers are setting next steps targets for their students, assessing learning and monitoring children’s progress and attainment every day in our classrooms and we get to share that with parents during only three parent evenings and an end of year report.  We are about to introduce a new reporting procedure which will proactively share this information with parents every half term, with the next stage formally bringing the students into this process too. This type of ongoing review and change to internal school systems will ensure we continue to make common sense common practice.

 

3. No excuses

There are none.

Do as I do.

That is what we say to our brilliant young creative thinkers and independent inquirers, and as teachers, we have to ensure that we model these qualities everyday in our classrooms and around the school. It is not always easy, but our message has to be that the development of the key learner skills every day really does matter, and that means we have to take risks in our teaching and give the children constant opportunities to share their ideas and thoughts freely and without judgement.

So, there are no excuses. We can’t blame Ofsted. We have the freedom to choose and we need to take on the responsibility that brings with it.

 

So my Malaysian skies are Ofsted clear, but I fully recognise that we have ourselves put in place many of the external validators that Ofsted bring in the UK,  but there is a difference.

Our motivation is always ‘What is best for our students now?’  ‘How can we improve now?’

Not ‘When is our next Ofsted due?’

It is not always easy, but there is no cloud.

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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:

http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/jun/04/newly-qualified-teachers-ofsted-inspections

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.

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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?

Or

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

Pressure?

Seems a little harsh to me.

keep-calm-it-s-a-lesson-observation-2

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:

https://watseducation.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/i-know-wwi-was-100-years-ago-but/

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?

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

Mike