Showing posts with label ofsted. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ofsted. Show all posts

Friday, 18 January 2019

From the @ThirdSpaceTweets Blog: Ofsted Framework 2019: A Summary Of What’s New For Schools From The January 2019 Consultation


Here's my summary of the proposed changes to the Ofsted framework: https://thirdspacelearning.com/blog/draft-ofsted-inspection-framework-2019

Saturday, 20 February 2016

All In The Same Boat


Now that we've all experienced the cocktail of initial relief, mild anger and nervous hilarity that the DfE's announcements yesterday generated, it's time to think soberly and wisely about it. My 'DfE Tells Teachers They're All Very Naughty' was a crude response, yet it did seem to voice the opinion and feeling of many teachers upon hearing what Mr. Gibb and Ms. Morgan had to say (@theprimaryhead's post was much better). What we teachers, however, really need to focus on now is making sure that, for our students, the next few months are worthwhile.

The positives that came out of yesterday's communication from the department are that it appears schools will not be judged too harshly based on the outcomes of this year's assessment. Nick Gibb wrote this in his letter to the NAHT:
"I have also written to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector asking that his inspectors take into account national performance and the contextual factors you have outlined when considering a school's performance on writing at Key Stage 2. All organisations holding schools to account should be aware of the changes being introduced in 2016 and will consider the impact of this in making any decisions about performance or intervention on the basis of 2016 data alone. This should give schools the confidence to engage fully with the vision of the new curriculum and to rise to the new standards."
He's actually right. We should have the confidence to go on teaching, even if he had never said this. Even if we know our RAISE online could go blue next year. Even if we know Ofsted will not look kindly on us. Because what we have to focus on is the children - we have a responsibility to them first and foremost. And in a sense it has always been this way in year 6: teachers have always had the role of gatekeeper, protecting the children from the pressure. Sadly, some teachers have never managed this, instead subjecting children to weeks and weeks of practise papers under exam conditions and taking every opportunity to brow-beat them with "It's only x amount of weeks until your SATs, you know?" Some teachers pass on the pressure they feel - and, at all costs, we must not do that.

"As this is the first year of new accountability measures and new assessments, we will wait until tests have been taken to set minimum expectations for a school’s progress scores."
We must also remember this: the scores will be calculated based on the tests taken nationally and if everyone does poorly then the minimum expectation will be set lower. We're all in this together and if the DfE stick to what they've said this week then perhaps we shouldn't worry as much. 

Although the DfE have tried to shy away from admitting that this has all been a bit shambolic,lines like this give it away: "Significant reforms such as these take time to get right and for the system to catch up." We're all in the same boat; teachers, school leaders, inspectors and government officials should all be chalking this year up to experience.

At the end of my first year teaching in year 6 I thought my world was going to come crashing down around me. Some children hadn't achieved as highly as I had hoped, despite acing many a past paper. There were certain issues when comparing the data to the previous year's data. I thought I was for the chop. I spent hours writing documents to defend each and every poor test score, compiling evidence to prove that my teacher judgments weren't way off the mark. I sat in front of the school leaders and even our school improvement partner to defend myself. It all lasted about a week, and then life went on. They asked me to teach in year 6 again and my current school employed me to teach in year 6 too: last year saw a ten percent rise in children achieving floor standards or above. 

That year when it all went wrong is now long gone and forgotten, in fact it was all gone and forgotten after a few weeks. The school went on to get a 'Good' Ofsted inspection (with two ares being 'Outstanding') despite the data which I thought would end the world (in fact, there was barely any mention of the data). 

And when 2017 rolls around 2016 will be gone and forgotten too. Whatever happens this year will not be career-defining for you. Realising that every year 2 and 6 teacher in the land is in the same position is key to having a more positive outlook on this matter. Knowing that when schools are compared, aside from the usual variations, there will be a national trend. That trend will not necessarily be a trend of 'underachievement' because I know that every year 2 and 6 teacher in the country will be working their socks off to ensure excellent progress and high achievement for all their children. Possibly the tests, and even the teacher assessment based on the interim objectives, will show that we are 'underachieving', but we will all be there together - maybe then the DfE will admit that their handling of the changes was clumsy. Maybe they won't. Whatever happens, it will all blow over and we will all move on.

In the meantime, steel yourself for Monday, plan and teach some exciting lessons and make sure the kids are learning and making progress. Don't foist the stress on to them; they're just kids. Make sure your leadership are taking responsibility too - don't let them allow you to be alone in the boat. Do the wise thing and make sure you teach them according to the curriculum and the interim objectives - do what you can with the short time we've got, but just remember that there are only so many hours in a day, week, half term. Maximise that time so that you can be confident your children will 'perform' to the best of their ability. And that is all you can ask for.

Photo Credit: Cyber Monkey via Compfight cc

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Forced Academisation: Will Hands Be Tied?

The Lords are revolting! "How very dare you!" they reply to the Tory idea that all failing schools should convert to academies. 

Come January I'll have worked in an academy for a year. Our school was rated as 'inadequate' by Ofsted two years ago this month. This is the part where I hasten to add that I joined the school in September last year, quickly distancing myself from any association with the grading. I took the job based on the weakness of the report - the challenge appealed to me. Who wouldn't want to work in an inner-city school boasting the accumulating problems of years of declining leadership? I remember sitting in bed reading the report and gasping out loud at what it contained. I remember visiting the school to be the told by the new head (who had already been appointed before 'the visit') that "the report was kind." I went to interview and accepted an Assistant Headship at the school, knowing that very soon the local authority would relinquish its responsibilities and that an academy chain would be 'taking over'.

It was my decision to work in an academy. Some of the existing staff members were highly suspicious of the change. As are most who are anticipating the passing of The Education Bill in which failing schools are to be forced into academisation without even the consultation of parents or teachers. And there are some awful stories which would only serve to heighten fears, but mine is not one of them.

As mentioned before, the current head started in the new year, post killer Ofsted. She quickly set about making changes (no time to outline those here). When the school became an academy - part of a large local chain - she retained her status as leader of the school. Whilst she has become part of a bigger machine, she still makes the decisions that are right for the school. In our chain, each head has autonomy as the academy recognises that its leaders know their individual schools best. Maybe, we've struck gold and other academies are not structured in this way, but they can't all be bad, surely?

As an academy we have benefited in other ways:

Parents were initially vehemently against the academisation, but a year on perceptions have changed. They see now a school run by professional people with their children's best interests at heart. They see us as part of a bigger force for good in our city - there is a sense of belonging amongst our stakeholders. They see that as a result of the aforementioned leadership, under the academy's umbrella, that major changes are taking place and transforming their children's education. Whilst we still have our challenges, no longer is it an 'Inadequate' school. 

Staff, on the whole, now feel proud too to be a part of the chain and there is a greater sense of teamwork and belonging; our staff Christmas meal was apparently the best attended in many years. Positive working relationships with other schools in the group are beginning to be fostered and expertise is being shared. 

The children notice the difference the most - they are learning more, more quickly, and enjoying it. They look smarter in our new uniform. They like the tighter routines and the maximisation of learning time. But they would not put the changes down to the academisation, but to the shift in 'how things are done', which all points back to the leadership (most children would recognise the change came about when the head changed). 

We have become an academy but the powers that be in the academy group have allowed the school's leaders to do their job, resulting in all manner of positive changes. I recognise our situation may be different to others as the new head was not responsible for the 'inadequacy' of the  school, nevertheless, I wanted to share a positive story of a school being forced into becoming an academy

Photo Credit: geebeetography via Compfight cc

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Great Expectations

I alluded in my last blog post to a previous version of said post which included a surfing metaphor. Prompted by this TES article by Professor Colin Richardson I thought I'd post it as he and I had some similar thoughts. 

My prediction is that the Prof's article will not go down well. The main argument will be along the lines of "But we have no control over the pressures put on us by the government, SLT, governors and Ofsted inspectors!"

And it's true, we don't on the whole. But we can control our approach to the workload we are lumped with, and in a controversial move Professor Richardson actually makes some good points.

But first, here was what I began with:

You're lying on your board, eyes cast over your shoulder scanning the waters for the next wave. It appears and you squint, gauging its size as it rolls closer, gathering momentum. It's a big one. Mentally, you fear both riding it and being overcome by it, but those are the options. Better to try and chance success than to be pummelled. A keen surfer at this point is almost unaware of the choice - there is no option for them but to catch the wave and go for it. A stressful situation no doubt, if one lets it become so. But are surfers typically tightly-wound balls of stress? No! We consider them to be the most chilled out, relaxed people around.

I wonder if the knowledge (no doubt compounded by social media's endless brainwashing) that teaching is indeed a demanding and busy profession leaves many-a-teacher quaking in their boots as they anticipate the deluge. When the workload gets heavy they're already resigned to the fact that they won't be able to deal with it all. I wonder if many of us never get on top and ride the wave because we think the wave is just too big to be conquered.

Even a confident surfer knows that any wave might just conquer them, and that an attempt may leave them gasping for air, fighting the undertow. But they also know that they can get back out there and wait for the next swell. They're relaxed about their chances, knowing that perfection is not always guaranteed. 

A lot of teachers are perfectionists - this is not a bad thing, it means they care and want to do a good job. It also means they will inevitably think that their job is never done. And it isn't. There will always be something more to do, something that could be done better. Subconsciously many teachers attempt perfection even when they know it is unachievable. We must begin to realise that we will have a bad observation, we will get the wrong end of the stick with the marking policy and we will struggle to assess without levels for a while. But we also must realise that none of those difficulties spell the end of our career. We must see them simply as opportunities to learn. We must be willing to swim back out to sea, ready and willing to get back up on the board and try again.

And I couldn't have summarised better than Professor Richardson:

"The vast majority of teachers expect too much of themselves. They aspire to unrealistic goals. They always fall short – and deep down they realise that they do. They know there is always more they can do for their pupils. They know that what they and their schools provide can never be good enough for the young people in their care. They acknowledge that their schools can never be perfect. Inevitably, they feel guilty about their shortcomings when they fail to meet unrealistic aspirations.

Consciously or unconsciously, they try to assuage their guilt through hard work and long hours. And they succeed, at least to a limited extent, but at a vast cost to themselves."

I urge you, stressed and overworked teacher, to at least give this article some credence. Could it be that you could make some changes in your self-expectations? Might it be a good idea to put a time limit on your work next week, finishing at a given time rather that 'when the work is done'? They might be piling it on, but fight back by admitting that a teacher's work will never truly be done.

Further reading: Addressing The Balance - 5 tips for sorting out your work/life balance