I am in a privileged position where I have the opportunity to meet a variety of school leaders and visit a range of schools across the country. Over a cup of coffee and a biscuit we discuss schools and education. It isn't long before the word 'OFSTED' is mentioned.
Updates to the School Inspection Handbook
For those who keep up to date with the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook, it is starting to include information on how it is giving schools more freedom. It is promoting itself through social media as a way to connect and engage with education professionals. Schools are being encouraged to freely choose their own way of doing things, as long as it impacts on progress.
- Ofsted WILL TAKE a range of evidence. Inspectors will take the time to look at the work of the pupils and talk to them, rather than rely on published data and numerous reports.
- Ofsted DOES expect accurate data. That is common sense. A school needs to have systems in place where leaders are able to 'drill down' to the assessments made in lessons. This would help them to check that content has not only been assessed, but also taught in the first instance. Leaders are then able to spot any gaps or duplication in learning.
- Ofsted DOES NOT expect data to be presented in a particular format. The format that the school would ordinarily use to monitor the progress of pupils is perfectly acceptable. The assessment information should provide governors with sufficient and accurate information to ask probing questions about outcomes for pupils.
- Ofsted DOES require teachers and other staff to have consistently high expectations. You wouldn't expect teachers to have a 'couldn't care less' attitude and not want the best for the pupils. The problem is that teachers care too much and put too much pressure on themselves in terms of workload and expectations.
- Ofsted DOES expect that the majority of pupils will move at broadly the same pace, with a balance of challenge and consolidation. The days of schools being judged on how much knowledge they could pour down the throats of the pupils have disappeared. Ofsted are expecting pupils to master learning in different contexts.
- Ofsted DOES NOT expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback. There seems to be a lot of confusion between marking and feedback. Marking is just one part of feedback, but there are many others including verbal, peer, etc. Feedback can be anything that improves pupil learning. Pupils just need relevant feedback so they can understand how to improve.
- Ofsted DOES NOT expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers. Teachers just need to record relevant evidence that shows an improvement in learning.
- Ofsted DOES want to know if parents understand how children are doing and what they need to do to improve. Learning is a partnership with parents and schools need to include parents and give them the opportunity to help with the learning of their child.
- Ofsted EXPECTS leadership to have high expectations, aspirations and excellence. Leaders should understand the progress of the pupils and have accurate self-evaluation and improvement planning.
Ofsted has no preferred method of planning, teaching or assessment
Schools have been given the freedom to change the way they do things. The days of prescribed national strategies, for example, literacy hour, are a thing of the past. As are the constraints and barriers of life with levels and points progress tracking systems.
School leaders need to have the confidence to do things differently and think about what is right for their school and their pupils. It is now time to stand strong and look to the future. So what can you do to make improvements in your school?
- Revise your curriculum to the needs of your pupils - an effective curriculum is essential for a successful school
- Reward teachers and leaders - this will help them to feel valued and motivated
- Develop the skills of your teachers and leaders through continued professional development and mentoring
- Praise excellent examples of formative assessment and progress
- Evolve teaching and learning through initiatives such as pupil empowerment, deeper learning and summative measures
As the renowned educationalist Richard Gerver states:
You can read more from me regarding my views and opinions on education right here on the InfoMentor blog. You can also find out more about InfoMentor which is a teaching and learning resource that has been specifically designed to make life easier for schools by reducing workload for the modern teacher. You can download white papers, view case studies and request a demo.