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Ofsted myth or reality? What we learnt from our teachers’ quiz

Matt Koster-Marcon
Sep 20, 2018

Like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the Harry Potter series, Ofsted often takes on an unfortunate air of foreboding in schools. What are inspectors looking for? Which data will be needed? When is their next visit due? And what should headteachers do to ensure their school is always prepared, no matter when the next inspection is announced?

When I was a teacher, all it took was a colleague whispering that Ofsted was visiting a school in the local area, and the staffroom became a panicked mass of anxious teachers. Instead of the Boy-Who-Lived, everyone is on a mission to find the magical School-Who-Got-Outstanding and glean as much information from them as they can.

But of course, schools are becoming more individual places – especially since Assessment After Levels was introduced – with schools finding their own ways to review progress and tailor the curriculum to their pupils. That’s why Learning Ladders created our online quiz – to judge what it is exactly that teachers know about the Ofsted process, regardless of the kind of school they may work in.

Here we take a closer look at the results of the quiz and offer guidance on how to tackle Ofsted’s requirements. (Want to answer the quiz for yourself? See how many questions you can answer correctly.)

Statement 1

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What Ofsted says: "Ofsted does not require schools to provide individual lesson plans to inspectors. Equally, Ofsted does not require schools to provide previous lesson plans."

This was an overwhelmingly accurate answer in favour of ‘myth’. Most teachers understand that the days of individual lesson plans are behind us, and as long as your lesson is organised in a way that makes sense to the teacher and pupils, Ofsted will be focusing on the learning taking place.

Still, nearly a fifth of teachers are still under the misconception that they are required to provide lesson plans. Sometimes, when these inaccuracies occur, it is because management haven’t been clear enough with staff, so it is up to headteachers and other SLT to ensure this is not expected practice.

Statement 2

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What Ofsted says: "Ofsted does not award a grade for the quality of teaching or outcomes in the individual lessons visited. Inspectors do not grade individual lessons. Ofsted does not expect schools to use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to grade teaching or individual lessons."

The results show that again, most teachers understand this to be a myth, but it is concerning that almost a quarter of participants still believe Ofsted criteria is expected for general lesson observations. This could mean some schools are still implementing an outdated method of grading in their schools which does not align with the information being shared by Ofsted itself.

If schools decide to devise an observation grading system for internal use, that is a different matter, but there is certainly no expectation from Ofsted about how lessons should be graded.

Statement 3

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What Ofsted says: "Ofsted does not expect performance and pupil-tracking information to be presented in a particular format. Such information should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to monitor the progress of pupils in that school."

This was one of our highest percentages, with 81% of participants selecting the correct answer. This is really encouraging although almost a fifth of teachers in the quiz still believe Ofsted has requirements for the presentation of data.

This puts decision making squarely in the hands of individual schools. If your school already uses a tracking system to gauge gap analysis and personalise learning, this is an opportunity to show Ofsted the data methods you use every day. If you have another system – as long as you haven’t hastily implemented it just for the benefit of Ofsted – inspectors will be happy to observe whatever is normal for your school.

Statement 4

Statement 4

What Ofsted says: “The planning will be informed by analysis of... information on the school’s website (taking into account current government requirements for maintained schools and academy funding agreements and non-statutory guidance) including... the statutory sharing with parents of curriculum information."

Three quarters of teachers answered correctly – that inspectors will indeed review curriculum information on the school website ahead of their visit. A quarter of participants did not know this is a common practice, however. It’s important senior leadership teams ensure the school’s website is maintained with dedicated subject and key stage areas.

A school’s website is the best way for an inspector to get an initial understanding of the school, prior to visiting. This doesn’t just include the ethos, timetable and safeguarding information, but the actual curriculum being covered in your school.

Statement 5

Statement 5

What Ofsted says: "Inspectors will use a considerable amount of first-hand evidence gained from observing pupils in lessons, talking to them about their work, scrutinising their work and assessing how well leaders are securing continual improvements in teaching. Direct observations in lessons will be supplemented by a range of other evidence to enable inspectors to evaluate the impact that teachers and support assistants have on pupils’ progress."

This was a statement that particularly divided participants. It wasn’t clearly understood by many participating teachers – 41% of them – that evidence gathered by inspectors will take priority when reviewing schools. While some might prefer inspectors to prioritise long-standing data over their own observations, this is not Ofsted’s official stance. They will be drawing on their own experiences in your school.

Statement 6

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What Ofsted says: "Ofsted does not expect performance and pupil-tracking information to be presented in a particular format. Such information should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to monitor the progress of pupils in that school."

A quarter of participants were under the impression that additional reports are expected from schools. Yes – schools need to provide data, but this should be nothing outside of reports already being created and shared across the school already – for example, for governors, SLT meetings and across departments.

Aware of teachers’ existing workloads, Ofsted does not want to create further tasks for teachers, including additional reports. As with Statement 3, Ofsted wants to see how your school usually operates, as if they weren’t there: if you don’t normally create reports, then don’t do it now.

Statement 7

Statement 7

What Ofsted says: "Ofsted does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders. Ofsted recognises that the amount of work in books and folders will depend on the subject being studied and the age and ability of the pupils."

This was another divisive statement with a worrying 40% of teachers believing Ofsted is expecting a particular frequency of marking. This could mean there is confusion between what their school has independently outlined in their assessment policy, and what is perceived as something Ofsted is looking for.

With so many varied forms of feedback now being given to pupils – from verbal feedback to peer reviews – written marking is no longer a required standard during Ofsted visits. They will want to see workbooks to ensure the marking policy of that particular school is being upheld consistently across staff, but they will not use a blanket criteria for all schools they inspect.

Statement 8

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What Ofsted says: "Inspectors may engage in... joint observations of teaching and learning carried out with the headteacher and/or senior staff."

In our survey, this statement had the largest number of teachers answering correctly. This is positive as it means joint observations won’t come as a surprise.

Sitting in on lessons with an inspector isn’t just a mutual learning experience that benefits everyone involved, it’s an opportunity for leaders to put observations into context. Understanding the previous learning opportunities available to classes being observed will allow inspectors to understand exactly what progress has been made. Is the subject taught on a carousel? How long has the teacher been working with the class? What interventions have been put in place by the leadership team? Combining the evidence in the classroom with context from your school’s own leadership team helps inspectors to form a more accurate picture.

Statement 9

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What Ofsted says: "Inspectors must offer feedback to teachers. Feedback may take a variety of forms, at the discretion of inspectors, such as one-to-one or discussions with groups of observed teachers or with whole staff groups."

This was our most misunderstood statement in the quiz, with almost an equal divide in responses. This is an important point for headteachers and SLT, in particular, to take away from this quiz: not enough teachers know that they are entitled to feedback from the Ofsted inspector after a lesson observation.

To avoid confusion over this point, headteachers should ensure all staff receive detailed, constructive feedback after internal observations and ensure teachers understand this is common practice during Ofsted visits. It could be that teachers think Ofsted will be too busy during their inspections, or that only SLT will receive feedback, but Ofsted has made it part of their practice.

Statement 10

Statement 10What Ofsted says: "While inspectors will consider how written and oral feedback is used to promote learning, Ofsted does not expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers."

As explored in Statement 7, the way teachers feedback and the frequency is not something that is outlined by Ofsted – this includes records of oral feedback. A high proportion of participants understood that these records are a fallacy and not required by inspectors.

Some schools may have a marking policy which includes recording evidence of learning discussions between teachers and students; if this is the case, then staff should be providing this evidence, but this is a system individual to each school.

Our quiz findings are mostly positive, showing that the majority of participants understand what is and isn’t required of teachers during Ofsted inspections. This shows that communication within schools is mostly positive and teachers are staying up-to-date on policy changes, such as the prior information Ofsted will look up, how observations might have more than one viewer and the presentation of data.

The areas for development, however, stand out as being an understanding of:

To clarify any uncertainty in your school, a review of these statements with staff might be useful ahead of any notice of an inspection. We look forward to bringing you further insights from our quiz results to help you and your school feel better prepared for the expectations of Ofsted.

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