Friday, October 22, 2010


Ofsted is the current name for schools inspectors and their chief is Christine Gilbert, who has featured before in a couple of posts. Nowadays schools only get a couple of days notice before an inspection but if you slip the caretaker a tenner he will let you know a bit further in advance because they will have been told to tidy the place up a bit.

Now if you are a parent who would like your child to be taught effectively but most importantly to come out of school with a load of good exam grades which will help them get a well paid and interesting job, then you will be horrified to hear some of the things that Ofsted bang on about:

1) Giving out good quality notes is considered old fashioned. Ofsted recommend that the pupils are encouraged to 'make discoveries through their own research'. Which basically means letting them blunder along learning something that's completely wrong, rather than actually teaching them (which is after all what the teacher is being paid to do). This approach might be helpful to many new teachers who have a scant knowledge of their subject gained through a university few would recognise, but it won't help your child.

2) Everyone knows that the best way to improve at something is to practice (sorry anon- it should be practise) it. Therefore doing past papers under exam conditions will hugely improve your chances of answering similar questions in the real exam. You don't need to be a genius to figure that one out, but Ofsted don't like it and one school recently has been warned that a teacher who spent a lesson spent doing this would be graded 'unsatisfactory'. I'd say that this got me a stack of good results at school but I'm not allowed to teach in the state sector any more.

3) Peer assessment is a Good Thing. This is where Shane (who cannot read, despite 8 years at school) marks Annabel's work and scribbles all over it, maybe drawing a picture of his reproductive organ for good measure. Conversely Annabel will also be unable to read Shane's work, partly because it is gibberish, but mainly because he has stolen her glasses.

4) Lesson Aims and Objectives must be written on the board at the start of each lesson for no obvious reason. If the kids don't know what they were supposed to have learnt by the end of the lesson then something's badly wrong anyway, but a teacher will definitely be pulled up by Ofsted over this.

4) Differentiation and Individual learning plans are Very Good Things. Basically these involve pandering to those who can't be bothered to listen and giving them the totally false impression that once they leave school anyone will be interested in their preferred learning style. Meanwhile the clever kids are ignored so that they gradually become disillusioned and fed up.

5) Grading questions is important. This is where the pupils waste a lesson deciding what level various exam questions are (rather than actually doing them). I have no idea what the purpose of this is, but it probably explains why the candidates on The Apprentice can't do simple multiplication.

6) Children are also supposed to know what National Curriculum level they are on at all times. They don't care and it is of no importance, but Ofsted love it if you slip "and this is a level 5a question.." into your lesson. Don't ask me why.

7) Pupil centric learning, marketplace activities and a whole host of other nonsense that simply wastes the time of the bright pupil are lapped up by Ofsted inspectors. Teacher training constantly praises and stresses the importance of each new fad so that new staff are about as likely to think for themselves as a North Korean civil servant.

So basically a schools inspection is a simple box ticking exercise. None of the boxes ticked will benefit the pupils one jot and most will hinder them, waste their time and make the bright ones think that they are being taught by fools. However, if you are a teacher then make sure that you do all the above on the big day and if you are a parent, get saving up to send your child to private school.


Anonymous said...

Now then Mr Chalk. Should that not be 'practise' in that context? Feel free to write it out a dozen times - the practice will do you good. :-D

oldgirlatuni said...

Dear God. I'm so glad I never finished my degree in education.

And, that I don't have children who might be wasting their lives and any intelligence that they may have.

jaljen said...

You have missed the importance of safeguarding to OFSTED. Everyone has to feel safe and cosy. Except the staff obviously. Doesn't matter where they get in the neck from little Johnny or their boss...

Anonymous said...

Sir, sir - 2 questions:

1. Have you ever met Katharine Birbalsingh & compared notes?

2. My attention might have wandered earlier, but why are you no longer allowed to teach in the state education system?


Dack said...

All that blathering on we're meant to do about levels and skills would kill any enjoyment of learning. As does shallow breadth rather than narrower depth.

I too missed the state school ban thing. What happened?

Anonymous said...

I'm in Year 10 and HATE peer assessment so much. We had to do that yesterday for speaking and listening. You can't give people great marks (because they were talking about unrelated junk) but you can't give them bad marks (because you have to see them almost every day). Also the mark schemes are written in a way them makes them impossible to understand.

AKM said...

Slightly OT as it isn't OFSTED related, however it is related to education. Basically is this typical of science education these days?

No wonder we're going to hell in a hand-cart, if so.

Boy on a bike said...

What's this nonsense about "giving out good notes"? Whatever happened to writing the information on the blackboard, and having the little bleeders write it down?

Our kids are showered with paper every day. They barely bother to glance at it, so they take nothing in. Having to sit there quietly and read what's on the board, then write it down, is the first step at taking anything in.

Boy on a bike said...

PS - I read this, and thought "you legend"

AN elite Sydney private school has disciplined a teacher for taping closed the mouths of two talkative boys.

Anonymous said...

"5) Grading questions is important. This is where the pupils waste a lesson deciding what level various exam questions are (rather than actually doing them). "
Are you winding us up?
Please tell me that is not true.

Anonymous said...

In HE we had QAA. They were tough bastards to start with, though not a patch on the older CNAA or the amazing processes of the older universities I came from. QAA soon lapsed into bureaucratic tedium, and collecting survey information from students (in one of my experiments I had mine filled in in the pub, and following Derrida, on the bus) - no one noticed until I gave the stuff out to my actual students who regarded this action as a betrayal.
Brilliant writing Frank, but how do we sweep it all away?

English Pensioner said...

No wonder my nephew decided that he would send his daughter to a private school. According to my sister (a retired teacher) she's made more progress in the last six months than she had made in the previous two years!

Hill said...

Anon 18.38 we had a whole training session on the importance of getting pupils to grade the national curriculum level of questions.

There was never any mention of them sitting quietly and doing the questions though...

Do you see this in the private sector? I honestly don't know.

Anonymous said...

The scary thing is that I recently returned to University to finish my degree off and I recognise every one of those techniques.

Mosher said...

@Boy_on_a_Bike - you can't get them to copy off the board as 90% of them are now dyslexic. Apparently. Or just can't read. Or simply won't bother.

We *have* to give handouts.

Oh, and virtually no school has a blackboard (or "chalkboard" as the former is racist). They have whiteboards. Which for some reason isn't racist.

Ed said...

This is the sort of rubbish I would expect to read in the Daily Mail.

I am no OfSted fan, but I know a lot if what you say to be rubbish, for starters, anyone who thinks the caretaker gets a tip off before the headteacher is living in a world of their own.

OfSted do now evaluate on the basis of what the children have learnt, not just what they have been taught. If you font know the difference then that is s problem.

As some who had an OfSted inspection next Tuesday,I am no fan of their tickbox approach, but your arguments are more if a rant than a reasoned argument.

Dack said...

Ed... my main problem with Ofsted (and the road that teaching/learning has gone down) is the focus on breaking down lessons into a series of separate activities - starters/plenaries/group work/self & peer assessment/banging on about levels and criteria to the extent that they're bored half to death/having to show progress ever 20 minutes (?!) et al. All these have their place, but Ofsted seem to expect you do do this tickbox dance within each lesson.

This just panders to the concentration-sapping/want it now lifestyle most live outside school. We should be battling against that.

My (mixed ability) year 7s have just completed an essay on a short text we studied. The process of ensuring they can access the content, develop the necessary understanding (literary terms, as an example), articulate their ideas, are able to focus on/monitor basic literacy skills and learn what an essay is and how to write it has taken half a term.

For the last three lessons they wrote up their essays. In silence. For three hours. Such lessons would be deemed 'unsatisfactory' as Ofsted would not consider those lessons in the context of the whole.

Students soon see the point of my 'style' of teaching/high expectations (ie assuming that they actually want to learn something) and the early grumbles of 'Ow... Are we doing writing again?' stop.

They're worked really hard, are proud of what they've achieved and have made great progress.

That's what matters to me. No doing the 'Ofsted Boogie'.

Jamie said...

Ed, I don't know about the caretaker tip off thing, but all the other points in that post are familiar to me.

An Ofsted inspection is a simple box ticking exercise. Learn the boxes and get a good grade, it's as easy as that.

Oh and that phrase "evaluate on the basis of what the children have learnt, rather than what has been taught" is straight from the Ofsted manual!

Lilyofthefield said...

It's all true in my experience except that i don't know about the caretaker bit.

My gripe is that there is no right of reply. You can't have a discussion with an Ofsted inspector as to why your chosen way is better for this class and this subject. You vill do it like zis or you will be shot, sorry, given an unsatisfactory.

Pete said...

G*d !!!

Stop fucking whining.

Give it up and get a new job.

(if you can)

Anonymous said...

I have taught for 15 years in an inner city school (now of course an academy). I have finally had enough and refuse to cooperate. Out go the aims and objectives, out go the levels (people really understand percentages). This has resulted in me being hounded by my head of department, who has the brain of a pea and does as she is told. Me? I'm going to become a driver!

Anonymous said...

Most teachers I know, including myself, that are effective(i.e. the kids learn, mostly enjoy it, and respect the teacher) pay little or no attention to this OFSTED drivel. We get on with the real job of making an effort to ensure that our charges emerge from education with at least some idea of how to survive, prosper and grow through learning, as well as getting a qualification!

When we close the door we teach in the way that we know works best for each group or individual in a natural, sometimes unplanned (Heresy!)way.

Any fool can produce a grade 1 lesson out of the hat (in my experience) and no amount of inspection regimes like this will make a difference to teaching standards.

So rest assured that there are lots of professionals out there that know how to get results, sometimes in old-fashioned ways.

BL said...

You have missed the possitive points that ofsted bring to the students. OFSTED make you do all of the above so that every student can achieve on a paper certificate a higher grade than they know or would have achieved through good teaching methods. You are not allowed to let students fail. That is competition that we all know does not happen in life. OFSTED are making sure that all students can go for all jobs with an equal chance, it does not matter they cannot think or do for themselves or even do the job. The employers will find that out when they are losing money due to lack of commitment or common sense .The employees will find out thatare not given the same chances or more information until they get it right.. But their GCSE say they can do it. What can the Ofsted inspectores do if they do not have their tick boxes. Maybe they are the students who got sacked for not being able to think for themselves and are getting their own back on us teachers who made them work at school. Sorry need to get back to writting out Learning obj and Learning Aims.