Ofsted Teaching Over Time criteria: why Ofsted don’t grade individual lessons – and why you should consider following their example

Mike Cladingbowl (National Director, Schools) has just published a new summary document entitled “Why do Ofsted inspectors observe individual lessons and how do they evaluate teaching in schools?”

This very helpful document could well be shared with staff. It includes a paragraph which graphically confirms the anecdotal evidence we have gathered from the heads of schools inspected recently – and has very important implications for the way in which you gather information on the performance of individual teachers and use it both to frame appraisal objectives and make performance-related pay decisions.

“I was speaking to a colleague today, one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors. He reminded me it is all about outcomes and that it does work both ways. In a classroom he was in recently, a teacher produced, literally, an all-singing, all-dancing lesson. There was music, comedy, costumes, games, ‘thinking hats’, and all with clear objectives on the whiteboard. He recorded a teaching quality grade of inadequate. Not because of the ‘performance’ on the day but because students’ graffiti-strewn books hadn’t been marked for six months and work was shoddy or incomplete. In contrast, he graded teaching as outstanding in a classroom where students sat reading in silence because of the exceptional quality of students’ work and the teacher’s marking in exercise books. He told both teachers what his conclusions were.”

In short, Ofsted is only interested in the quality of Teaching Over Time – and in the scientific nature of the procedures you follow to improve it still further.

We have been struck recently by the growing number of heads we have met on our PRP courses who say that they will no longer give an overall grade for a lesson either at all or until at the very least there has been an opportunity for teacher and observer to discuss feedback which identifies which aspects of professional practice observed were outstanding, which were good, which required improvement and which were inadequate. Working in this way over time – and combining observation evidence with pupil progress data and the outcomes of learning walks, work scrutiny etc – makes it possible to set appraisal objectives in the “weakest” areas – even for teachers whose practice is already outstanding in all of them! This is what the Ofsted Handbook means by relating objectives to “identified need”. It also means you will automatically be focussing on the professional areas most relevant to next year’s pay progression decision.

For these reasons we have developed our new electronic Standards Tracker product, to:

1. Enable you to arrive – in discussion with the teacher – at a decision on whether their practice is Outstanding, Good, Requiring Improvement or Inadequate in each of the following key Ofsted Teaching Over Time Areas:

  • Level of challenge
  • Pupil response
  • Monitoring of progress in lessons and adaptation of teaching
  • Promotion of positive attitudes to learning
  • Use of questioning and discussion
  • Pupils’ understanding of how to improve their work
  • Management of behaviour
  • Deployment of learning assistants
  • Use of marking, assessment and testing to help pupils improve their learning
  • Views of pupils, parents and staff
  • Pupil progress over time

2. Identify the key associated national standards that represent each teacher’s key professional development needs

3. Record appraisal objectives, success criteria and action plans and upload evidence as you go

4. Produce anonymised reports on the quality of teaching over time for inspectors and governors

5. Record lesson observations against the key Ofsted Teaching Over Time criteria listed above – or develop your own template

A reminder that we will be beginning our new round of Leadership Pay and Appraisal courses shortly in the light of the recent STRB Report. I hope to see you on one of them.