Ofsted and the behaviour and safety judgement

There were some revisions to the inspection framework in September 2013. These were summarised by Heather Leatt here. But one which seems to have slipped under the radar is the renewed emphasis on behaviour. Specifically, behaviour for learning.

A school’s self evaluation form (SEF) is a key document during an inspection. One of the purposes of an inspection is to assess how well the school is taking an accurate view of its own performance. I have looked at a number of SEFs recently and for the most part they are providing an accurate analysis of the absence, exclusion, behaviour and bullying data for the school.

But I haven’t seen any which are making reference to the new expectations for outstanding in the behaviour and safety judgement. The first two bullet points for outstanding refer to attitudes to learning: ‘pupils consistently display a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning, including independent, group work and whole class work, which have a very strong impact on their progress in lessons’ and ‘pupils’ attitudes to learning are of an equally high standard across subjects, years, classes and with different staff’.

It’s coming as a surprise to some schools where good behaviour in lessons has been identified by the school as outstanding. Too often good behaviour is confused with good behaviour for learning. There is a big difference and David Didau has explained it clearly here. Schools need to show that learners are engaged and motivated. Now, this does not mean all singing all dancing performances. It is often quieter and can be seen when students are concentrating, working things through and persevering. Sometimes on their own, sometimes with others. It’s a big ask and it’s not something that happens overnight.

In order for outstanding behaviour to be evident in lessons, there must be consistent, whole-school systems in place. It’s a whole school issue and primarily an expectation that senior leaders have this in place. There have been several posts recently describing schools where behaviour is not managed well. Where behaviour is regarded as the teachers’ ‘problem’ and where unacceptable behaviour is not managed consistently or fairly. In which case, leadership and management are unlikely to be good. Andrew Old posted about how to ruin behaviour http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/how-to-be-bad-smt/ A number of senior leaders are using this as a ‘what not to do guide’. And one headteacher emailed Andrew to describe simply and coherently what needs to be in place: http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/a-solution-to-poor-discipline-in-challenging-schools/  To quote: ‘Securing good discipline is down to the headteacher and senior leaders. Our role is to serve and support our staff, and to guarantee that they can teach their carefully prepared lessons without the stress of dealing with deliberate defiance and unruly behaviour’.

The behaviour and safety judgement needs to take account of the views of staff, pupils and parents. The views of pupils are gathered during interviews, parents from Parentview and meetings. And the views of staff on behaviour come from meetings with middle managers and senior leaders. If a teacher wants to let the inspection team know about behaviour in the school, there is the staff questionnaire, or a direct message to the team during inspection. These inform the overall judgement and will not have an individual response.

For terrific advice on evidencing the rest of the behaviour and safety judgement Stephen Tierney has written about how his school is approaching it http://leadinglearner.me/2013/11/10/ofstedsefplanner-behaviour-and-safety/

 

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Ofsted criteria and lesson observations

There are two sorts of lesson observations. The first sort are the school’s internal lesson observations. Basic quality assurance. They should also be formative, even if the lessons observed are outstanding. Perfection doesn’t exist and there is always room for great stuff to be embedded. In my opinion, lesson observations should not, repeat not, just be top down. In the healthiest schools, they are collaborative and part of a collective ambition to get better. And in my book, that means that anyone observing another colleague should be prepared to be observed themselves.

Now much has been written about whether lesson observations improve practice. And the answer is no, if they aren’t formative. If they are done just to collect data and tick boxes, they are not worth the paper they are written on. And the answer is yes, if there are proper conversations about what might have been done to secure improved learning. And what support might be on offer to make this happen. Another way to think about internal lesson observations is that they are the highest form of assessment for learning. And plenty of schools use lesson observations in this way. Sometimes there are tricky conversations to be had. If the quality of teaching observed is different from the progress being made, what might be going on? Stephen Tierney has written an excellent post on matching the lesson observation judgements with progress over time: http://leadinglearner.me/2013/11/06/ofstedsefplanner-quality-of-teaching/

What sometimes goes wrong is that some schools take the judgement on the quality of teaching from the inspection handbook and apply this to individual lessons. But it wasn’t intended to be used like this. It is not a tick box, it is a descriptor which is used to make a judgement on the overall quality of teaching in the school. Not, repeat not, for individual lessons. Some of the problems that follow when the descriptors are applied to individual lessons are these: a frantic overload of activities, regular stops to check for learning (when the students are barely underway), masses of resources used superficially, a rigid lesson plan, limited time for students to work independently. So, some good, thoughtful practice gets distorted by an overload of strategies. Enough to give everyone indigestion. But high quality learning doesn’t result from a series of strategies being used and then moving on. It is heart breaking to read recent accounts of the expectations for a lesson observation – http://cazzypotsblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/ofsted-smoke-and-mirrors-and-malevolent-magic/Even if I put on this fairground  freak show for every lesson; the fact remains that no alien observer in the room would be seeing a true picture of what my teaching is really like, or how good my lessons really are. Unfortunately, lesson observations will always be a lie, an untruth, a gimcrack and a madness.’ 

And yet, there are schools which don’t expect a show. And that’s because they understand that it is the quality of teaching over time. And that this improves through high quality conversations about learning. A number of senior leaders have written about this and several come to mind: Chris Moyse here: http://chrismoyse.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/professional-development-at-my-academy-no-lessson-grades-ever/ And the debut blog from Paul Banks. Look at bullet 4 http://paulbanks1974.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/what-to-aim-for-as-a-slt/ And for a common sense analysis of progress, read Kev Bartle’s post http://dailygenius.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/the-myth-of-progress-within-lessons/

The second type of observation is external, usually during an inspection. The purpose of these observations is to cross reference the school’s own judgements about the quality of teaching. And these are matched against progress over time. I am going to write a separate post on what might be going on when the quality of teaching observed is lower than the progress as there are some complicated factors behind this.

So, from an inspection point of view: don’t put on a show case lesson, please. We spot it a mile off and so do your students. It’s meant to be natural, because we’re trying to get a picture of normal practice, over time. This is hard, I know. I’d be intimidated by me standing in the back of the class. But, until the schedule changes, it’s a given. And every other profession and business has quality assurance embedded in its practice. I’m tough, but kind. And actually I’m not interested in what you are doing, but the impact of what you are doing on your students. So the radar needs to go from you to them. And if you get this, it gives you freedom to teach to your strengths. Forget about me, or anyone else observing you.

So, what are inspections looking for? Above all, they are looking to check how robust the school’s own evaluation is of the quality of teaching. So, we need to sample some of these. If the school’s practice has been to judge the quality of teaching based solely on aggregated lesson observations, without taking account of how much progress students are making, the quality of feedback, what pupils, parents and teacher are saying, they are likely to have got it wrong. A handful of lesson observations do not a judgement make. They have to relate to how much progress students are making, over time. Not every ten minutes.

There’s no silver bullet for this. Certainly not a checklist of what some schools think what Ofsted wants. It’s good, thoughtful, learning centred practice, day in, day out. So it’s heartbreaking to read twitter conversations and blogs about unrealistic pressure on colleagues to prepare the perfect lesson to be observed. Perfection doesn’t exist. Good enough does, because good leads to good and sometimes outstanding. Over time.

And everyone deserves a life outside school.

Why lesson observations only count for so much

Lesson observations are high stakes. It’s a statement of the obvious to say they are stressful. And it sometimes seems as though reputations are made or lost through one-off lesson observations.

Some context here. Every profession or business has quality assurance built into the system. And education is no exception. It is not unreasonable that over £55bn of public funding on education should be checked. And the focus of the checks is the achievement of young people. Given their starting points, how much difference are we making to the lives of students in our schools and in our classrooms?

One purpose of an Ofsted inspection is check how robust the school’s own self evaluation is. Has the school got an accurate picture of how well all their students are doing compared with others nationally? Do they know how well the vulnerable groups are achieving? What are they doing to narrow the gaps? How are they doing this? And are their judgements about the quality of teaching accurate? If judgements about lesson observations stand alone and are not linked to progress for students, there is likely to be a problem.

A 20 minute observation can only tell part of the story so what else needs to be taken into account?  In a nutshell it must relate to students’ progress over time. As a result the quality of teaching judgement links closely to the judgement on achievement. If a ‘good’ or even ‘outstanding’ lesson does not lead to good or better progress over time, then it follows that the quality of teaching is likely to require improvement. And the flip side of this is that if a lesson is observed which requires improvement but the progress is good, then the judgement on the quality of teaching over time will be good.

So why is the lesson observation still perceived as such a significant ‘snapshot’ when it is part of a bigger picture? My guess is that it is because it feels like one when you are on the receiving end of it. But the Ofsted schedule makes clear that a wider range of indicators must inform the judgement on the quality of teaching. ‘Inspectors must not simply aggregate the grades awarded following lesson observations’ (School Inspection Handbook Sep 2013 p37 http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/school-inspection-handbook). So if they are part of, but not the complete story, why do some schools insist on making judgements about the quality of teaching just by adding up the proportion of lessons graded good or better? If this is the case, and they are not also taking account of progress over time, considering students’ work and the quality of feedback and taking account of the views of students, parents and staff, then it is unlikely that leadership and management can be judged as good. It’s like the blind men and the elephant. They only have part of the picture. So we need to be clear sighted and take a view of the whole elephant.

And let’s remind ourselves about what Sir Michael Wilshaw had to say about lessons observations at the RSA in 2012. With thanks to @oldandrewuk who produced the transcript.

“It’s good that unannounced inspections will mean that inspectors see lessons as they normally are and – let me make this clear – if we see an extended piece of writing or reading, or the structured reinforcement of mathematical formula, where the children are engaged and learning then that’s fine. Let me also emphasise we do not want to see teaching simply designed to impress inspectors. We don’t want to see lessons which are more about classroom entertainment and promoting the personality of the teacher than embedding children’s learning in a meaningful way. So let that message be proclaimed from the rooftops. OFSTED will judge the quality of teaching in relation to the quality of learning and whether children and young people across the age and ability range are making the progress they should be from the starting points. There will be no OFSTED template which compels teachers to do things they wouldn’t normally do. We need to celebrate diversity, ingenuity and imagination in the way that we teach.”

Now this is all fine on paper. But it’s less fun when it’s happening to you. So, some thoughts on making it less painful. Do more of it: inoculate yourself by asking for observations from other colleagues. And expect to see other people too. Including the senior leaders who are observing you. Now not all senior leaders have a teaching timetable, but many do cover lessons or trial new ways of working. Some heads like Tom Sherrington, not only teach, they write about it too. His blog is essential reading: http://headguruteacher.com And as Wilshaw says, senior staff are the lead learners in the school. So perhaps they should be modelling what they expect to see. And in schools which have high levels of trust and an absolute commitment to improvement then observations are part of an ongoing conversation about what works. And what could be even better. A bit like assessment for learning really. The leaders in these schools manage to create the conditions for high challenge and low threat. Where they treat colleagues as human beings first and professionals second.

And if you are a senior leader reading this, you need to check what is being said by some of the deepest thinking and most articulate professionals in the field.

http://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/whos-afraid-of-lesson-observations/

http://headguruteacher.com/2013/06/03/evaluating-teaching-and-learning-the-departmental-review/

http://community.tes.co.uk/tom_bennett/b/weblog/archive/2013/05/24/the-beaufort-wind-scale-why-we-need-an-observation-revolution.aspx

http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2008/06/08/lesson-observations/

http://www.learningspy.co.uk/featured/where-lesson-observations-go-wrong/

http://dailygenius.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/the-myth-of-progress-within-lessons/

And inspection teams get observed too, and get formative feedback. I wrote about my inspection here: http://marymyatt.com/2013/10/18/lead-inspector-areas-for-improvement/

This blog came about as a result of an animated twitter conversation last night. And am pretty sure it won’t be the last word….

There’s always someone upline…

The peeps up the food chain are paid to check we are broadly on track. Now I don’t believe in making extra work for anyone. In fact, I spend a lot of time helping colleagues focus on the core business. Learning. Non negotiable. And, surprise surprise, when we prioritise the reasons why we are teaching stuff, focus a beam on learning and think imaginatively, what follows is less work for teachers. And more for students and pupils. Good thing too. Second thing is that I try and make sure I don’t make more work for anyone who is helping me. This means I meet admin deadlines on time. And I try not to ask anyone to do anything at short notice.

However, back to the original point. I work confidently to my strengths but am aware that some of my practice needs to be tighter. I rely on those senior to me to point this out to me, to expect me to get it sorted and most importantly to improve my practice.

Because I am clear about the things I am very good at, it releases me to do the other things quickly and to respond with humility when I get things wrong. I know there are people upline who check my work. And thank goodness for that. If I’m quality assuring then my work needs to be quality assured as well. And I’ve had a few things pointed out to me this week, quite rightly so. Big picture right but some details missing, now addressed by me. Now I don’t want to make work for those upline from me, but until I’m perfect the maestros upline are needed.

So what does this mean for colleagues in schools? Concentrate on the things that matter for students and pupils. Return requests for data and admin matters quickly, and to the best of your ability. Don’t spend ages on it. The core business is learning and thinking about how to stimulate learning. The rest is detail. And if it’s off the mark, it can be sorted quickly. That’s what upline is for. Not that I want to make work for them either. There are some aspects of my professional practice that will be sorted when the final nail goes in the coffin. And that’s ok. In the meantime, I’m up for being held to account. I’m still learning, still thinking….

Data for dummies

Data isn’t king, it’s the queen. The king is the story behind the data. And if we don’t already, we need to learn to love the story. So, why is this important? The bottom line is ‘how much difference have I made to the children I’ve been teaching’. And at a school level, how much difference have we made to learning for all young people, including the vulnerable groups.

Some basics: we need to know the difference between attainment and achievement.

Attainment is the headline data, for example the results at the end of key stage 2 and at GCSE. Attainment is important because it is associated with a range of positive outcomes, including better income, employment, and health. That is why there are floor targets for schools. For primary schools, it is expected that at least 60% of pupils reach level 4 or above in both English and mathematics by the end of key stage 2. And for secondary schools, at least 40% of students at the end of key stage 4 should gain five or more GCSEs at grade A* to C in both English and maths. IGCSEs count for this.

Achievement is the standards which pupils reach and takes account of their starting points and the progress they have made to reach those standards. So, if I am teaching a group with came in with L4 in English at key stage 2, they should reach at least Grade C at GCSE. If they all end up with Ds and Es, then something has gone badly wrong and I need to be held account. With good teaching, high expectations, hard work and motivation I would expect to see a number getting grade B and A.

Schools use a number of tools to track this. Fisher Family Trust and 4Matrix are two of the data tools which analyse, compare, forecast and report on subjects. These are helpful, up to a point. One of the mistakes is that the data produced is regarded by some schools as the king, rather than the queen. The data produced by these systems are incredibly helpful to hold schools, departments and individuals to account. But the figures also need to be mediated by what we know about our pupils and students. So, it is wrong to say that the FFT D figures are predictions. They are not! They are estimates and should be used to set targets. Realistic and challenging targets. Guidance from FFT says they are estimates of likely attainment and should be used as the basis for a discussion about expectations. They also say that ‘estimates should be used alongside other information, particularly recent teacher assessment and recent performance. Estimates can provide an indication of the ‘most likely’ level or grade. They are only ‘indicators’ and should not be seen as rigid predictions or targets’.

Ofsted teams don’t have access to FFT, 4Matrix or any of the other systems used by schools to help them set targets. Instead, they use RAISEonline. Inspection teams only have access to the school they are about to inspect. The data on RoL is historic, which is why the school’s own data is important, so that teams can see how well students and pupils are currently doing. RoL provides information on the size of the school, the demographic profile of the pupils, their prior attainment, data on the results for KS1 and KS2 in primary and for GCSE in secondary. I have summarised here. There are between 60 and 90 pages which are analysed for each school. For sixth forms PANDA and L3VA are used to paint a picture of achievement.

What we are particularly interested in are the expected levels of progress for all groups of pupils. If certain groups are not making expected levels of progress, for example lower and higher attaining, compared with the middle achieving groups, then what does this say about the quality of teaching for these children? The headline attainment might look fine, but progress for all is not. We are also looking closely at the attainment and progress for children who have additional funding through the pupil premium. How does their attainment and progress compare with other groups in the school and compared with all children nationally? The reason this is such a focus is because outcomes for these children are still shamefully low. The gaps need to be narrowed, and fast.

This post came about because a colleague asked how to move students currently on FFT D estimates of an E grade at GCSE to a C grade. For an E as an estimate it is likely that the student reached L2 in English at key stage 2. In which case they will be needing additional intervention and the FFT analysis for such students should indicate the percentage likely to reaching grade C, given their starting points. This becomes the basis for the conversation with the student. Along the lines of ‘One in ten students like you managed to gain a C in this subject. Wouldn’t it be great if you could too? If you are up for it, we will help you.’

And if you’ve read the story of data this far, you are definitely not a dummy…

 

Lead inspector: areas for improvement

Lead inspectors get observed too. I was leading an inspection recently and a senior inspector arrived with ten minutes notice to inspect me. Good thing too. Quality assurance is crucial at all levels of this high-stakes process.

This is how I run inspections: I remind myself and the team that it should feel as though the inspection is being done with the school, not to them. That we are all human beings first, and professionals second. That we are in a school for two days and that the school knows more about how it works than we do. Then we crack on. Primarily to assess the rigour and accuracy of the school’s own self-evaluation. So we do some joint lesson observations with senior leaders to agree the quality of teaching. And triangulate this with the progress that students are making. We look at books too, and check the quality of feedback. And see whether students have been given the chance to respond. (Big mistake if not, as time-consuming marking and feedback is a waste of time. And as I’ve said before, you could have been down the pub.) We also talk to students, middle managers, teachers, governors and the local authority or academy sponsor. I also talk to the lunchtime supervisors.

There are at two main inspection team meetings. These are observed by the headteacher and one or two of the senior leadership team. This way they can see how we reach our judgements. The kind of evidence we are using, how we are interpreting the data and the overall picture which is emerging. Now although these are team meetings and school leaders are there to observe, I always make it clear that if we have got something wrong they have the right to let us know. Then we continue the team meeting. Seems sensible and a matter of basic courtesy to me.

So, what are the main areas of improvement which were identified when I was observed? That I need to make sure that the joining instructions for the team include an indicative timetable, even though that will change once we are in school. That there should be clearer instructions for the team inspectors to make explicit the areas to be covered in discussions with managers and students. That I don’t allow so many contributions from senior leaders during team meetings. And that meetings run more closely to time.

And the good thing? That there was an open, professional relationship which enabled effective communication.

What did I learn from this? That I need to be humble in taking on areas for improvement. That a well-focused, kind discussion made the difference between my being defensive and being open to constructive criticism. That I need to tighten up. And that I’m not bloody perfect. (Never thought I was actually…)

‘Should I be marking every piece of work?’

This was a question put to me as I worked with a group of teachers this week. My answer was ‘No’. ‘But we are expected to mark everything in our school, so can you point me to the evidence that says that not every piece of work needs to be marked?’ So, another blog, a contribution to http://blogsync.edutronic.net/

Some background to this. Schools have picked up on the fact that Ofsted inspections are making judgements about the quality of teaching over time. This is a good thing and takes away the notion that a 25 minute observation is the only evidence which is considered to judge the quality of a school’s teaching. But where it has gone wrong is that some schools are saying that every piece of work needs to be commented on by the teacher. This is not feasible and it doesn’t support learning.

What inspections are looking for is that there is high quality feedback which crucially is acted on by the student or pupil. Too often what we see is feedback without any response. So, how can it be moving learning forward? The kid has ignored it, not because they cant be bothered, but because they haven’t been expected to. Now feedback is going to look different in different subjects. It won’t look the same in English as in maths or science or drama. The important thing is that high quality work is affirmed and the reasons given. And that misconceptions are picked up and used as the focus for discussions either in the book or in the classroom. Mistakes and misconceptions are a good thing because they make us go back to first principles and talk through what a good or correct response is.

If I am looking at students’ books and see that every piece of work has been marked, has high quality feedback, but no action by the child, I check with the teacher how much sleep they are getting. This is not feasible. Mostly though this isn’t the case. Lots of books have lots of ticks, the odd comment and no expectation that any thing should be done as a result of that comment.

So, to sketch out what kind of marking makes a difference to learning and is also reasonable, practical and leaves enough time for the teacher to go have a life outside of school. For starters, it is better to think of it as feedback. In other words, a conversation with the child about what they have done well and what they need to do to improve. Much of this can and should take place in the classroom. At some point during the lesson, the teacher might ask the class or a group of children what they are learning as opposed to what they are doing. For example, in a numeracy lesson in a primary school, how are the children working out which is the greater number when comparing decimal point values? If they can’t say why, they probably don’t know and are just guessing. So, back to basics and revisiting the difference between tenths and hundredths after a decimal point. The feedback here can be captured through post its in the children’s books.

In a literacy lesson children might be working on some imaginative, creative writing. They will probably be doing some drafts. Marking for these need to have a precise focus. If it is SPAG, then this needs to be explicit. As the teacher checks the books, they make a note of the common SPAG mistakes and give a symbol for these. Then, as a class or a group, these are revisited and the child is expected to check their own spelling, punctuation and grammar. Sometimes on their own, sometimes with others. Crucially using dictionaries or spell checkers. Doing it for themselves, rather than just having it corrected by the teacher.

When it comes to giving feedback on a piece of creative writing, reasons should always be given for the comment. ‘Nice work’ isn’t good enough. Save your ink. ‘A high quality piece of work because…’ is much more productive. This is what some schools are referring to as www (what went well). Areas for improvement are often described as ebi (even better if). To support learning, these are much more effective if they are expressed as questions: ‘Could you give an example?’ ‘What else does this make you think of?’ ‘How does this compare with..?’ The teacher should not be providing the child with the answer, but expecting them to think and to refine their work as a result. This doesn’t happen by magic. Schools who have got the hang of this know that they have to dedicate time during lessons for children to act on the feedback. And there’s no getting away from it, this means we have to be prepared to cut content. In favour of learning. So no contest.

To summarise, provide plenty of feedback during the lesson. Use post it notes, stamps and symbols. Marking outside the lesson should be reserved for more substantial pieces of work which have been developed over time. So fewer pieces, done in more depth.

Some serious bloggers have written about their practice: Alex Quigley, Tom Sherrington, David Didau, Joe Kirby and Stephen Lockyer

http://www.huntingenglish.com/2013/02/09/making-a-marking-policy-a-feedback-policy

http://headguruteacher.com/2012/06/17/264/

http://headguruteacher.com/2012/11/10/mak-feedback-count-close-the-gap/ Check the grid at the bottom which shows how to reduce workload and increase impact

http://www.learningspy.co.uk/assessment/marking-act-love/#more-4537

http://www.learningspy.co.uk/assessment/work-scrutiny-whats-the-point-of-marking-books/

http://back2thewhiteboard.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/5-how-can-i-mark-books-without-burning-out/

http://www.classroomtm.co.uk/marking-is-broken/

The original question came from a primary colleague. I couldn’t find any bloggers writing from a primary perspective about this. I may have missed it. If not, there’s a gap in the market. And the conclusion? Marking every piece of work is neither necessary nor sensible.