The Black Sheep of Ofsted Hope


Having listened to @oldandrewuk‘s extensive evidence about Ofsted I am happy to accept that   Ofsted has a problem with teacher talk. However, I also have a story that has always heartened me in the face of people arguing that Ofsted don’t know good teacher-led learning when they see it.

During a recent inspection (last 2 years) an Assistant Head walked into the office ashen-faced. He looked like he’d seen a ghost.  “Darla spoke for the whole thing,” he said. “The whole 20 minutes we were in there she..just…spoke! She was showing the students powerpoint slides, and then getting them to draw, then getting them to watch, then draw.”

Darla is an art teacher known for doing what she wants but always putting the students first. Nevertheless, we panicked. Though we knew, regardless of all her teacher talk, that the students would be learning a tonne – they always did – would the Inspector agree?

Darla got a clear Grade 1 “Outstanding” for the lesson. The feedback mentioned that every student was engaged, learning, developing. She was commended on her ability to use her voice, language and presence to command the whole-class. And though subtle, she had left planned prompts on students’ desk so no-one was “left behind”.

Ofsted inspectors will sometimes get things wrong. They might have pet hates, or wish to see more activities not coming directly from the centre. But my fears have been at least a little quelled that if they see really good teacher-led learning, then they won’t automatically dismiss it. After all, the same person who inspected our school must go to others too. A black sheep in the crowd? Possibly. But at least we know they exist.

5 thoughts on “The Black Sheep of Ofsted Hope

  1. As you say, there’s a difference between ‘really good’ teacher-led learning, and just talking at a class and expecting them to listen and learn because you are the teacher and somehow that should lead to automatic respect/learning. I think we all know this, and I’m not convinced that endless anecdotes to the contrary tell us anything, especially when we don’t know the specific context.

    Unless we actually get to see the teacher in action, how do we know whether it was a bad Ofsted judgement, or just a not very good teacher in the example given?

    That’s not to say that I believe Ofsted are great, or that Old Andrew is necessarily wrong. However, it is why I believe we need to start putting the teacher at the heart of everything we talk about, rather than the methods or the pedagogy (e.g. the knowledge -v- creativity nonsense we keep hearing). In the end, it’s surely the quality of the person that makes the difference. Which is where deep, broad and reflective training is so vital.

    We need to stop playing the ‘what do Ofsted want’ game and start playing the ‘let’s trust teachers again’ one. I think most heads (as in your example) are well aware of which teachers can hack it and which can’t.

    If there’s a problem that Ofsted have become a political weapon, then that is a separate issue that we should tackle separately, rather than trying to change what we do to match what they want.

  2. I had a closer look at the link to what Old Andrew says, and in both bits of ‘evidence’ for Ofsted preferring less teacher talk, what you actually see is that the students had ‘become bored’.

    Surely an effective teacher, seeing that the students have disengaged, would throw in some group discussion, or some kind of student led activity, before coming back to teacher talk once they had had a chance to give some input. That’s good teaching in my opinion – responsive to what the students need.

    This is why context is all in these situations, surely? Anecdote after anecdote doesn’t prove anything unless we are actually in the lesson ourselves.

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