you're reading...
Leadership Issues, System Change

Meeting OfSTED: The Game has Changed.

Left to right: @TomBennett71; @LearningSpy; @ClerkToGovernor; Mike Cladingbowl; @headguruteacher & @TeacherToolkit (18.2.14)

Left to right: @TomBennett71; @LearningSpy; @ClerkToGovernor; Mike Cladingbowl; @headguruteacher & @TeacherToolkit (18.2.14)

This post follows on from the excellent accounts from David Didau (@LearningSpy)  and Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit) about our meeting with Mike Cladingbowl at OfSTED HQ on Tuesday this week. (Update: Shena Lewington (@ClerktoGovernor) and Tom Bennett have now also written accounts of the meeting.)

For me, this was the second time I’d met Mike Cladingbowl, OfSTED’s Head of Schools,  within a few days, following the Headteachers’ Roundtable meeting with Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw as reported here:

The Headteachers' Roundtable Meeting. Click to follow the link.

The Headteachers’ Roundtable Meeting. Click to follow the link.

The Headteachers’ Roundtable meeting at the DFE emerged out of discussions with Michael Gove last summer; it was something we’d been working towards for months.  The meeting at OfSTED was entirely different.  Two weeks ago I received an email from the OfSTED communications team inviting me to the meeting on the basis of ideas I’ve expressed on this blog.  Evidently, there is a recognition at OfSTED that the twitter-blog world has something to offer in terms of two-way communication.  Arriving at this meeting, none of us knew who else would be there and we were all attending as individuals, not representing anyone.  However, in writing this – as David and Ross have done – I suppose we are playing a small part in helping to convey how some people in the profession feel and helping OfSTED to communicate their thinking. What we found was that, behind the slightly frightening OfSTED Wizard of Oz facade, there are real people trying to do good.

Our visit had parallels to this one.  I won't say which of us is which..

Our visit had parallels to this one. I won’t say which of us is which..

David and Ross have given detailed accounts of the discussions.  I won’t add to them here.  However, I want to focus on the main outcome of this meeting:

The OfSTED Game Has Changed. 

Lesson Observation Grades Are Over.

Officially, this isn’t news.  It’s been implied in the new framework for a while.  However, for various reasons, the message has not been getting across.  There are still elements of the written guidance that have yet to be fully aligned and, naturally enough, there are inspectors who have not fully taken on board the significance of the guidance. Mike Cladingbowl has been updating guidance to inspectors to make this more and more explicit – with evident frustration at how difficult this has been.

Most recently, OfSTED has issued some FAQs on school inspection policy: Here is the crucial bit:

From the OfSTED FAQs.

From the OfSTED FAQs.

It is instructive to refer to the inspection handbook section for teaching. Here is the grade descriptor for Outstanding teaching:

The grade descriptor does NOT define what any single lesson should be like.

The grade descriptor does NOT define what any single lesson should be like.

In our meeting with Mike Cladingbowl he was absolutely explicit about this.  Inspectors should NOT be arriving at judgements about individual lessons. They should NOT be telling teachers or the Headteacher that any individual lesson was RI, Good or Outstanding;  they should NOT even be writing a grade on their Evidence Form.  Why? Because the grades are a best fit of all the evidence they can gather about the overall quality of teaching in a school and this very explicitly IS NOT the aggregation of the grades of individual lessons.

The fact that we are not already fully aware of this and acting on it is because too many inspections are promoting the view that grading, de facto, still does exist.  However, Mike Cladingbowl is determined for this to change.  He is urging schools, Heads, teachers to let them know directly when grading of individual lessons still occurs.  He could not have made this any clearer.  So, I’d suggest that we take him at his word and act on this.

Once we reach a point where people across the system actually trust that this is the new reality – in practice as experienced in actual inspections as well as in the content of the latest OfSTED guidance – the consequences are significant. School leaders and Governors will need to re-evaluate their internal accountability processes.  If schools are still grading lessons or, worse still, are using grading of individual lessons to inform PRP judgements, they will need to think hard about what they are doing.  Every teacher and every governor or member of an SLT should be crystal clear that there are no OfSTED-defined lesson grade criteria.  If a school is going to persist in giving grades, those grades will need to be defined locally – with a rationale that is not ‘because that’s what OfSTED say’. They don’t. Not any more.  All talk  of the ‘OfSTED Outstanding Lesson’ will need to stop; it is not meaningful and hasn’t been for some time. No teacher should have to say “I got a 2” or “I was RI” in their latest observed lesson – not if that is meant to refer to OfSTED criteria. Things are going to have to change.

Alex Quigley and I have both used the Stockholm Syndrome metaphor before…and I predict that we’re about to witness this on a massive scale.  Grading of Lessons is no longer sanctioned by OfSTED – but it will continue far far longer than can be justified because people are nervous of change; they won’t believe it’s true; they’ll be fearful of what the implications will be in terms of holding people to account; some people will feel disempowered and disorientated; they may even think it is all part of a Govian conspiracy that will come back to bite us.. (Mr G doesn’t have that kind of influence over Mr C; it doesn’t work like that.)

However, hopefully what will emerge is a stronger professional culture rooted in a more intelligent understanding of what ‘Outstanding Teaching’ means for an individual and across a whole school and what the evidence for this might look like.  The process of evaluating a teacher’s performance will now have to be developed throughout the system through explicit triangulation of multiple evidence sources gathered over time, without reference to OfSTED grades for individual lessons. This has got be good news for so many reasons.

There is so much inertia in the system, it will take a while for the fresh air to circulate into every corner, but, make no mistake,  the game has changed. I know people who will want to wait and see – they won’t trust it, not for ages. But, I’m convinced that this is the real deal.  Step outside people; breathe it in; it’s a new dawn… Scarecrow has a brain!

UPDATE:  Feb 21st. Article from Mike Cladingbowl.  http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/why-do-ofsted-inspectors-observe-individual-lessons-and-how-do-they-evaluate-teaching-schools

Note the final paragraph.

Final Paragraph indicates the likely next wave of changes to come...

Final Paragraph indicates the likely next wave of changes to come…

It seems to me that this is the direct we’re heading in.  Bring it on Mike. That’s the way to go.  Ditch all the grades – it’s just too confusing. Meanwhile, SLTs around the country, you know what you have to do!


UPDATE: See this post: Keeping Up with OfSTED’s Goalposts. What SLTs should do.


69 thoughts on “Meeting OfSTED: The Game has Changed.

  1. thank you for your articles, it really helps to bolster my CPD. JK


    Posted by milkwithtwo | February 20, 2014, 3:47 am
  2. Reblogged this on stuffaliknows.


    Posted by stuffaliknows | February 20, 2014, 8:45 am
    • A welcome and illuminating contribution to the topic, like many others, especially as you have highlighted the assignment of a ‘teaching coach’ to your work. Like many initiatives, this practice may seem constructive and in its way, irreproachable. However, I’m aware of cases where it appears sanctimonious, premature and potentially divisive. One in particular involved the contentious ‘grading’ of a 4 on a well-prepared and resourced lesson with a difficult Year 9 group taught by a very experienced and successful Head of Department. The twenty-minute ‘snapshot’ resulted in her being informed that coaching and monitoring would need to be be implemented. The ‘coaching’ would be provided by someone from a different specialism with much less experience. I have every sympathy with you in this respect, and am also sad to see that in what is effectively a public forum, your ‘coach’ is not the only one with a weakness in English. Any steps taken to clarify policy, and challenge it, must be welcomed. I would add that the contexts of the school’s status (Academy? LEA ?) and the integrity of its management are crucial factors in this phase of policy.


      Posted by quevedo44 | February 22, 2014, 10:07 pm
    • Never realised the pressures you teachers deal with day to day before startingwork within a school. I take my payoff to you all.


      Posted by Lisa | February 22, 2014, 10:57 pm
  3. Top news indeed, now we need leadership teams, consultants and publishers to get the message too.

    To me, the real damage done isn’t Ofsted but the subversion of guidance by school leadership teams. Just like sub levels and other stuff that’s created.

    Will PGCE courses, NQT mentors also stop grading individual lessons?

    There a lot of work yet to do I feel.


    Posted by @davidErogers | February 20, 2014, 9:36 am
    • I think that Oxford do not grade individual lessons but all the other HEI providers I know about do. Partly this is because Ofsted have been very clear about the need to demonstrate that trainees are making progress, and about the need to demonstrate that systems are in place for tracking progress and identifying lack of progress quickly. An obvious route to take is to require regular formal lesson observations. The research on lesson observations suggests that it is possible to achieve reliable judgements about teacher effectiveness by using multiple observations from several different well-trained observers, so there is some support for this model, given that trainees do not generate the kind of data that comes from qualified teachers. However, there may be better ways to assess trainees and certainly Oxford must have made their argument stick when they were last inspected (2011 under the old framework).


      Posted by dodiscimus | February 20, 2014, 11:24 pm
  4. Bloomin’ marvellous. A shot in the arm for teachers, teaching and CPD. Now for a concerted effort to replace the current system of appraising with something more meaningful. Thank you. Time will tell if this is actually a landmark moment or if Stockholm rules.


    Posted by marvinsuggs | February 20, 2014, 9:47 am
  5. What concerns me is that this contradicts the inpsection handbook published in January this year:

    “When inspectors carry out lesson observations, they should grade, where possible, key judgements such as achievement and teaching, indicating in particular the growth in students’ knowledge and the quality of their learning. Judgements made through shorter observations will relate to the part of the lesson observed. For short observations, inspectors might not award grades, but should use the evidence they have gathered to inform the overall evaluation of teaching.

    So what do we believe?


    Posted by Tony Green | February 20, 2014, 10:02 am
  6. Refreshing news indeed – but no more than many of us have argued for – and about with inspectors leading primary inspections in recent years. Any judgement about T and L has to be about the quality of provision over time.
    We all know of teachers who can deliver one-off dazzlingly ‘outstanding’ lessons invariably in their ‘specialist’ or strong area of the curriculum ( dance, PE, music…) but whose day-in-day-out teaching is distinctly patchy and lack-lustre. We also know of inspiring and bold, creative teachers who play safe when observed and deliver tried and tested lessons which tick all the boxes but are ‘painting by numbers’. In my view learning and teaching which is consistently good (day in, day out, for each and every child in the class, in each area of the primary curriculum, over time and evidenced by real progress and achievement) is truly outstanding.


    Posted by Vicki Paterson | February 20, 2014, 12:42 pm
  7. Hi Tom,

    The message during my recent (Jan 2014) additional inspector training was very clear. When observing a lesson you typically give three judgements; achievement, the quality of teaching, and behaviour and safety. This is not classed as a lesson judgement although it’s difficult to see how a teacher wouldn’t see it as such. These judgements are based on what you see in 20mins within the lesson. Given the recent revelations I clarified the position and as far as I am able to tell these gradings are still required as part of the inspection process. I’m not suggesting or implying that any of this is right or wrong in terms of what should or shouldn’t be happening but I am concerned that these blogs could be propagating a misconception. The fact that lessons are not graded is not something new as part of the Ofsted process and hence I don’t think we will see any change in terms of the perception that “lessons” are graded during an inspection… for now.

    I hope this makes sense, I found it difficult to explain what I wanted to say!




    Posted by Neil | February 20, 2014, 4:48 pm
    • Tom,
      Is there consistency between AI training providers? Do you think Serco are saying the same things as Tribal?
      I ask this as having trained with the latter, but know others who have applied for training with the former… and some detail differs.


      Posted by Bill | February 20, 2014, 5:54 pm
      • Hi Bill. Very clearly there is not consistency. The subcontracting of AI training is a central flaw in the whole system. It’s not tight enough especially when OFSTED HQ is still developing its thinking.


        Posted by headguruteacher | February 20, 2014, 5:57 pm
    • Thanks Neil. There is a crucial if somewhat subtle distinction to be made. Given that the framework delivers an overall grade for teaching, it is right that this is based on an accumulation of evidence. Inspectors should only use evidence grades in a way that helps them arrive at the final judgement. However, they must not make a judgement of a specific lesson or teacher. There are no lesson judgement grades. I’d say it is the responsibility of inspectors to make this absolutely clear. No teacher should be given the impression that their lesson was graded even if evidence from their lesson contributed to the final judgement. I accept that some people will find this too subtle but that’s what should be happening.


      Posted by headguruteacher | February 20, 2014, 5:54 pm
      • Thanks Tom. When you feedback to staff you are asked to feedback the, typically, three judgements. For example, in the sample of learning I observed students made good progress because they developed a solid understanding of the photoelectric effect. This was as a consequence of the carefully structured activities and skilful questioning and so teaching was also good. This part remains (as I say as far as I’m aware) and I’m not sure this helps. I agree an inspector should make this abudently clear that this is not a lesson judgement but as my friend pointed out to me ever so elequantly, “Neil, you can call a cat a dog, but it’s still a cat”. Anyway, not really sure where I’m going with this other than it would be very helpful if Ofsted said “this is what will happen during a lesson observation, this is what inspectors will write down, this is the language that will be used in the feedback”. Thanks for reading!



        Posted by Neil Williams | February 20, 2014, 6:11 pm
      • I agree, this is the central area of confusion. I don’t think it is sustainable. If lessons are not to be graded then all grading of this kind needs to go. I think it will eventually but they’ll need to re-write the framework. Inspectors should gather evidence of strong and weak practice, take an overview and, only in the final analysis, give an overall grade – if they need to grade at all.


        Posted by headguruteacher | February 21, 2014, 3:32 pm
      • So let’s get this straight. Cladingbowl is saying inspectors shouldn’t grade individual lessons and Neil is saying inspectors are required to record a teaching and learning grade for every lesson they observe. Now, I might be wrong, but the only way these two claims can both be true is if the inspector’s grade for teaching and learning isn’t for the lesson but something else, either a) what they observe, plus other sources of evidence (e.g. data, marking, student voice, work, etc.), b) literally the twenty/thirty minutes of what they observe, and thus not the lesson, or c) nothing which is literally part of the lesson (e.g. data, marking, student voice, previous work, etc.). My gut reaction is that it is ‘a’ and we need some urgent clarification.


        Posted by Klaus Jones | February 20, 2014, 7:25 pm
      • It’s B. I think @ofstednews have said they will clarify this (or rather what it should be) in their FAQ document.




        Posted by Neil Williams | February 20, 2014, 7:30 pm
    • Neil is absolutely correct . Having just completed the Ofsted part two training it was made very clear that lessons are not graded but if there is sufficient evidence , then grades can be given for achievement , behaviour and safety , quality of teaching and where appropriate , leadership and management . I think the current twitter storm on this is misleading and is giving teachers and schools the wrong impression of what inspectors should be commenting on. I also feel cross that Ofsted appear to be making policy on the hoof , putting out statements in response to meetings with bloggers rather than making a more measured response . My fear is that the next few weeks of inspections will be unnecessarily difficult for both schools and inspection teams alike .


      Posted by Kevin Moody | February 21, 2014, 7:27 pm
      • Hi Kevin – I agree with your last point. However, it is just a fact that the grading you refer to is very often regarded as and communicated as a lesson observation grade. I’ve never known a teacher or Head to view it otherwise in practice. This needed clarification. I think our meeting was just the last in several and, given the sense of confusion we conveyed, Mike C felt he had to issue a clarification. Unorthodox for sure – but certainly necessary. In theory the policy hasn’t changed at all – it’s just a clarification on how it is interpreted.


        Posted by headguruteacher | February 21, 2014, 7:43 pm
  8. In the midst of all the guff it comes down to judgement by results and what OFSTED and its acolytes seem to ignore is that to achieve well requires intrinsically motivated pupils as much as good or outstanding teachers. Look at Prince Harry’s level of progress at Eton. Under Messers Gove and Wilshaw, beat the teacher over the head is the approach being adopted by OFSTED on the assumption that doing this will lead to improved pupil attitudes and learning. Novel or is that not what D.H.Lawrence described?
    Move the bar up to three levelsprogress being required over five years (or immediately in the last cohort; one year for this etc) rather than 2.5 so that previously good achievement becomes requires improvement (sorry unsatisfactory satisfactory) and more and more teachers can be branded failures. Has Stakhanov been reincarnated?


    Posted by CLAPHAM BABY | February 20, 2014, 8:24 pm
  9. I think this a great way of moving teaching forward. There is a huge culture shift to be had in schools though, not just senior teams. The first thing staff ask me is what grade was that? We have to be able to build staff confidence in leadership and get them to work with us in developing exciting and challenging learning opportunities. I cannot wait to embrace the challenge


    Posted by Kerry targett | February 20, 2014, 11:28 pm
  10. I think this a great way of moving teaching forward too.


    Posted by fotograf kraków | February 21, 2014, 9:20 am
  11. Reblogged this on npt247.


    Posted by jrhopkins247 | February 21, 2014, 9:47 am
  12. I will believe this when i see it. If a teacher in the school is inadequate and the children are not making progress and for this reason the school fails its ofsted inspection how will the problem be identified if that individual teacher is not told how their conduct was judged? Heads will ask for judgements of individual teachers lessons. A judgement will still be made on the lesson observed which will lead to a final decision, whether or not a grade is given. There is no point at all in putting the teacher through the pressure of a lesson observation if no grade is given or judgement made? I don’t see any reason or point behind Ofsted making these statements about individual lessons not being judged? Try being the teacher in the classroom when they visit and then decide if the game had really changed or any pressure or stress is lifted knowing that on paper your observed lesson will not be graded, this is of no relevance what so ever!


    Posted by claggisb | February 22, 2014, 10:02 am
    • The issue is that the evidence from a lesson drop-in can’t justify a grade. However, it can suggest evidence of strong or weak practice and this could be fed back to teachers. The grade is problem. Once the culture shifts to focusing on strengths and areas for improvement, it will be less stressful. SLTs need to take more control in inspections, providing evidence that justifies there assessment of the school’s strengths. The problem remains that the stakes are still too high for schools to be open about their relative weaknesses during an inspection process.


      Posted by headguruteacher | February 22, 2014, 10:24 am
  13. Reblogged this on Grammar Gal.


    Posted by grammargal1 | February 23, 2014, 12:29 pm
  14. Reblogged this on The Road to RIO.


    Posted by Tony Battista | February 23, 2014, 11:23 pm
  15. Reblogged this on My 'teaching' Blog.


    Posted by bronzapunk | February 26, 2014, 6:49 am
  16. If there are no lesson grades (and I mean the grading of individual lessons) then what exactly do the following points in the subsidiary guidance, dated January 2014, refer to?

    66. When giving feedback, inspectors must not argue that they are unable to give a particular grade because of the time spent in the lesson.
    67. Inspectors must not aggregate the grades given for teaching is (sic) a formulaic or simplistic way in order to evaluate its quality overall.

    Brewery, freeform celebrations.


    Posted by Kev Geall | February 26, 2014, 8:44 am
    • Another unhelpful bucket of confusion. I have just returned from a day’s Ofsted training (AI) where one of our tasks was to observe and then grade a filmed lesson. We were reminded that we were judging the teaching rather than the teacher.
      On the train home, I read Mike Cladingbowl’s recent Ofsted piece. As noted above, Cladingbowl is very clear that ‘Inspectors should not give an overall grade for the lesson and nor should teachers expect one.’
      In short, grades should only be given if the lesson is put in the context of ‘teaching over time’ when work analysis/marking and pupil discussions are also taken into account.
      Clearly, this message has not yet been taken on board by all inspectors and is not being emphasised enough by the AI training providers.
      This will obviously lead to some interesting conversations between inspectors and knowledgeable staff in forthcoming school inspections!


      Posted by Savo | March 3, 2014, 8:08 pm
  17. Oh this will upset those managers who been pacing the corridors with their checklists of outstanding practice. But watch … a whole bunch of pedagogic turnkeys will suddenly get fluffy.


    Posted by Mike Velli | March 6, 2014, 6:07 pm


  1. Pingback: What I learned from my visit to Ofsted | David Didau: The Learning Spy - February 20, 2014

  2. Pingback: An edu-blogger mandate for @OfstedNews by @TeacherToolkit | @ TeacherToolkit - February 20, 2014

  3. Pingback: News from the bloggers’ visit to Ofsted | Candida Gould - February 20, 2014

  4. Pingback: Scrapping Observation Gradings? | Secret Teacher - February 21, 2014

  5. Pingback: The Journey of the Blogi | Clerk to Governors - February 21, 2014

  6. Pingback: OFSTED - Requiring Improvement | HuntingEnglishHuntingEnglish - February 21, 2014

  7. Pingback: Meeting OfSTED: The Game has Changed. | headguruteacher | James's space - February 21, 2014

  8. Pingback: Meeting OfSTED: The Game has Changed. | headguruteacher | ICT Dave - February 21, 2014

  9. Pingback: Ofsted: 'We don't grade teachers on individual lessons' - Education - TES News - February 21, 2014

  10. Pingback: Keeping up with OfSTED’s Goalposts. What SLTs should do. | headguruteacher - February 22, 2014

  11. Pingback: Fiyero and the Scarecrow: defying gravity | Teaching: Leading Learning - February 23, 2014

  12. Pingback: 5 Education Twiterrati were summoned……to Ofsted Towers! | Manchester Governor - February 24, 2014

  13. Pingback: Grade or don’t grade? « Tips 4 Teaching - February 25, 2014

  14. Pingback: ORRsome blog posts from the week that was. Week 8 | high heels and high notes - February 26, 2014

  15. Pingback: To Grade or not to Grade…. | West Sussex Deputies Network - February 26, 2014

  16. Pingback: What baggage am I carrying around graded lesson observations? | Are your students thinking? - March 2, 2014

  17. Pingback: The great grading debate | M J Bromley's Blog - March 3, 2014

  18. Pingback: Why I love Graded Observations! | Spin Off - March 4, 2014

  19. Pingback: OfSTED abolishing individual grades. | createwnc - March 5, 2014

  20. Pingback: Examples of outstanding practice- peer observations by Suzanne Mackenzie March 2014 | Advanced Skills Teaching at Woodhouse - March 10, 2014

  21. Pingback: Flight: teacher networks in the sharing economy | Oliver Quinlan - March 18, 2014

  22. Pingback: An OFSTED Round Up | Scenes From The Battleground - April 2, 2014

  23. Pingback: A 2nd Year of Blogging: The doors that opened. | headguruteacher - May 10, 2014

  24. Pingback: Hello, I am a teacher | I Teach to Inspire - June 9, 2014

  25. Pingback: Future Spaces, future teachers and the importance of publishing | Oliver Quinlan - June 10, 2014

  26. Pingback: Bloggers lead the campaign to reform Ofsted | Pragmatic Education - August 2, 2014

  27. Pingback: Ofsted meeting matters; a collection of blogs | Governing Matters - August 31, 2014

  28. Pingback: Turning the tanker: lesson grading | David Didau: The Learning Spy - October 29, 2014

  29. Pingback: 1,000,000 Views. Thanks A Million! | headguruteacher - November 21, 2014

  30. Pingback: Lesson observation: to grade or not to grade? - IRIS Connect - December 22, 2014

  31. Pingback: The First Post | Classroom Monkey Fish - April 8, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow teacherhead on WordPress.com


Blog Stats

  • 7,315,406 hits


Follow me on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 128,662 other followers

St Jude Songs. And others.

%d bloggers like this: