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Ofsted Inspections: busting the myths!

sheetal ofsted

The death of Ruth Perry (previous Headteacher of Caversham Primary School) has sparked rage and concerns over Ofsted inspections.

According to the BBC News, an Ofsted inspection “contributed” to the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, an inquest has ruled. The inspection “lacked fairness, respect and sensitivity” and was at times “rude and intimidating”, senior coroner Heidi Connor said.

There is great pressure on senior leaders and headteachers to ensure a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ grade is awarded. Whilst pupil progress and attainment are the key objectives, it is not always easy to keep up with government changes and ensure all members of staff are compliant. Many senior leaders are burnt out and suffering mental health issues.

Whilst I am not an expert, I hope this article may bring a little ease as there are many myths. I was recently selected to join the Ofsted Future Leaders Programme which provided the opportunity to have training on the Education Inspection Framework and shadow senior HMI on inspections.

Busting Myth Number 1: Paperwork

There is no need to do additional paperwork. I was the senior leader who spent hours through the night preparing folders. They will not get opened! What do you need?

  • A clear progression map showing knowledge and skills for each curriculum area.
  • An action plan for each subject – showing how learning experiences will improve for children.
  • Coverage of National Curriculum objectives.

Busting Myth Number 2: Teaching

Senior leaders can be quite obsessed with everyone having the same teaching style. Ofsted understand that teachers will have different styles; of course, there are some whole school strategies, but overall, they observe pupil behaviour, attitudes and progress within the lesson and over time.

Busting Myth Number 3: Marking

I have been in schools where I have introduced the Shirley Clarke highlighting marking and in schools were marking is pretty much a stamp at the end of a piece of work. Ofsted do not look for in-depth marking; they want senior leaders to reduce teacher workload. Teachers are not required to write reams of comments if there is no impact – the marking policy should be regularly reviewed.

Busting Myth Number 4: Lesson Planning

It strikes me that experienced teachers are still required to produce daily lesson plans. Ofsted do not look at daily lesson plans. They will require a long-term and medium-term plan that shows the objectives – this is to ensure that the school is meeting the statutory requirements. Curriculum leaders should be able to speak about the curriculum throughout the school.

Busting Myth Number 5: Differentiation

The days of tasks in all lessons to be differentiated are gone! Differentiation has now been replaced with ‘adaptive teaching’. Teachers should be making adjustments where required, maybe a change of language, using questions, and providing challenging tasks.

Busting Myth Number 6: Fancy lessons

When planning an Ofsted lesson do what you always do! There is no need for up-beat fancy lessons. Ofsted do not have a particular style and are looking to see whether the pupils are learning.

Busting Myth Number 7: Observations

Ofsted do not grade individual lessons – if your school is still doing this, they need to move with the times. Grading is determined by looking at teaching and learning as a whole; triangulation of planning, assessment and data.

Busting Myth Number 8: Evidence for Curriculum Leaders

The inspector will have a discussion with you about your subject. They will want to know ‘the picture’ across the school. The expectation is that they will see what you have spoken about, and everyone is talking from the same hymn sheet: pupils will say the same, teachers say the same and lessons show evidence of impact on learning.

Busting Myth number 9: Schemes of Work

I have heard of schools that purchase schemes of work and then ask teachers not to use the materials. Having a scheme of work ensures that there is consistency between year groups; it reduces teacher workload and ensures that pupils make good progress.

Busting Myth Number 10: Reading

Reading is a key priority; it is important that all pupils have access to high-quality literature. Having a validated phonics programme is important and there should be consistency between Reception and Year 1.

There are no hidden secrets; the Education Inspection Framework is published online and is the Ofsted bible. Of course, there are discrepancies between inspectors and there does need to be some change especially as senior leaders are leaving the profession. I am not an expert but I am happy to offer myself to any member of the teaching staff – whether you have a question; need some advice or want a training session, you can contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter. @smithsheetal / Sheetalsmith

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The author

Sheetal is an experienced education leader in the Primary education sector. She has worked in a variety of settings in London in different leadership roles and has completed programmes such as the National Qualification for Headship. She has been responsible for many curriculum areas including English, RSE and Assessment and is currently working as an Assistant Headteacher in a secondary school and is interested in becoming involved in Further Education. As well as promoting diversity, equality and mental health, she has always been invested and successful at driving school improvement, curriculum design and achieving the best pupil outcomes through Carol Dweck’s growth mindset approach. She now lives and teaches in Oxfordshire.

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