Ofsted want to see…

“Ofsted want to see…”

“Ofsted expect…”

“Ofsted are very keen on…”

Really?

Are you saying this because you’re an Ofsted inspector, and this is something you’ll be looking out for when you do your next inspection? Or are you saying it because it’s something you heard someone else say Ofsted want to see?

I’m fairly confident that the majority of such conversations fall into the latter category. The main reason for this is that they tend to focus on instigating new practices or promoting a certain teaching style. Both Sir Michael Wilshaw and Sean Harford have said that this is incorrect – Ofsted do not want to see a particular teaching style. And frankly, they’re the ones in the best position to know what Ofsted wants to see.

And yet, there are too many members of SLT who confidently trot out the Ofsted line, in the strong belief that no one will contradict them. This has led to staff meetings and INSET days where SLT have announced that from that point on, all teachers must ensure they include an element of group work in their lessons. That the pupils should have an opportunity for kinaesthetic learning, or a chance to share their work with the whole class every single lesson.

Every single lesson.

It becomes a mantra for the school, and soon it worms its way into some written policy. Once written, forever followed.

I think that trying new things can work well, that we shouldn’t assume that all new ideas are rubbish. I’m happy to try out new things in my classroom, but I do it on the understanding that if it doesn’t work I’ll go back to doing what I know to be productive. Equally, I want to be trusted to make my own decisions about the efficacy of something that I’m trying out in my lessons. If it works, I’ll do it, if not, I’ll stop.

I don’t want to be told that I must persevere against all reason just because that ‘something’ is expected by Ofsted. Repeated written comment and response between pupil and teacher actually takes time away from my teaching, and adds, well, what exactly? A greater marking workload certainly, but does it actually benefit the pupils?

If you want your staff to adopt a new policy or scheme, give them a good reason for doing so, don’t use Ofsted as an excuse. If it works, there’ll be a lot of evidence to back up your assertions. You’ll be able to pinpoint how this will benefit the pupils, how it will help the teachers, and how you’ll assess whether it’s working in the context of your school, and thus whether it’s actually worth continuing.

If it’s just some vague rumour you’ve heard, or that is doing the rounds of the local schools, stop and think before you insist that all your teachers adopt it. If it doesn’t work, or if it just bogs the teachers down in unnecessary work they won’t thank you for it.

In fact, they’ll see through you, and you’ll just look like a fool.

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