Annoying things controlling schools still do that have no basis in evidence:

As trailed on twitter… a short round-up of annoying things controlling schools still do that have no basis in evidence.

1. Grade individual lessons

There is no justification for this in terms of professional discourse.  It’s voodoo; a control device. No human observer can reliably maintain graded judgements over time, let alone  ensuring that this is done consistently by different people.    Nobody has the power to judge a lesson to be Outstanding and not merely Good based on student learning – it’s a delusion.  Not being rude; just saying it how it is.

At best, grading is a super-crude short-hand proxy for saying a range of positive and negative things about a lesson.  But, let’s be honest, if you need to tell someone their lesson is Grade 3 or 4 to convey a sense of your concerns about the quality of their work or if you think a ‘nothing less than Good’ stance is meaningful beyond a cheerleading mantra – it suggests you have issues with how you talk to people about teaching.  It could be that teachers have issues hearing critical feedback unless your EBIs come gift-wrapped with a Grade 3 or 4 label, but again, that’s a communication deficit writ-large. Let’s do better.

2. Insist on LOs on the board

Every lesson should have a learning objective – but that is likely to be a long term one; it might span several lessons.  Sometimes there are lots of sub-objectives;  sometimes it would take quite some time to explain – or reveal.  So, whilst, it should be clear from a lesson what the objectives are – that doesn’t mean you need to write them slavishly on the board. The act of writing the LO down on the board does nothing in itself and, very often, becomes a lip-service exercise.  You can’t tell anything about the quality of learning from whether or not someone has fulfilled the requirement.

3. Insist on conspicuous differentiation eg must/could/should

Don’t we want all our learners to learn everything – to the greatest possible extent? I would suggest that forcing conspicuous differentiation on people has been responsible for hours of wasted time making different worksheets and tasks and has fuelled a tendency to focus on devising ‘accessible’ activities rather than on finding ways to make sure all students engage in rigorous learning and work hard.  Differentiated objectives are Death to Expectations.  So, not only is the compliance around them annoyingly over-controlling, it is misguided.

4. Target grades on books

The theory is that setting ‘minimum targets’ raises aspirations.  However that presupposes that the student and teacher a) have low expectations (which might be true but might not be) and b) will respond to the presence of a number on a book to continually remind them and c) that this number has some meaning in terms of what they should then be doing differently.   Even the most optimistic, positive spin on this makes the link from writing a target grade to achieving it very very tenuous.  But then there is the whole issue of students in the lower deciles of our bell-curves, having low grades to ‘aspire’ to.  It’s the modern-day Dunce Cap.  Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.  This info is for teachers; private and sensitive.

5. Set teacher data targets linked to appraisal

We’re part of a team. Outcomes are a collective responsibility.  Every class has been taught by lots of people along the way.  We all want students to do well but we can’t be held to account in a crude way for a specific set of outcomes.  Of course, if patterns emerge over time, or if we find things have gone badly wrong, we need to take responsibility.  But this is subtle and complex. If you tell me I must get X % Grades 4-9 in my middle set (taught by the string of supply teachers last year) in order to meet my appraisal target, I’ll  do what I can do; I’ll work hard, but the presence of that target won’t change anything.   It’s not going to motivate me on iota.  And, at the same time, I’ll be planning my escape to the more intelligent school down the road. If I stay in teaching at all.

6. Encourage ‘show teaching’ for observations. 

Let’s face it. This happens.  It’s observation week and you dust off your fancy group activity… because that’s what the SLT person seems to give out the brownie points for.  And then you back to your normal teaching afterwards.   Show Pony Week is the creation of bad leadership… End Of.

7. Require a set frequency of written marking comments. 

I’m told that someY1 teachers have to produce written comments in books for students to respond to, EVERY WEEK.  Year 1.  This is one of the top items on the Ofsted Myth Busting charts.  Just stop.  STOP.  Talk about feedback; value verbal feedback; focus on improvement… and be intelligent about how much marking is useful in the flow of a whole learning sequence in different subject contexts.  Great teachers don’t have to do much marking at all in order to secure great outcomes…. try to hear that message.

8. Have lesson plans and data-annotated seating plans to hand during lessons.

  1. GDPR
  2. Workload
  3. Lessons should be planned; students should be known – but don’t turn it into a regime where the products of planning and tools for knowing students are mandated to the point where their purpose is lost.  If a seating plan might be useful (as an aid to learn names for example) promote them. But don’t mandate them.   Teachers are professionals….  Show some respect.

The list could go on, but let’s leave it there..  feel free to vent in the comments below…



  1. Every bit of this is bang on. It’s not just time-wasting, it’s gumption-sapping. The management-by-audit culture that generates all of this drivel sucks the time, energy and enthusiasm of our teachers. People who need to be fresh, sparky and well-prepared to deliver at their best lose the will to teach when faced with all this mumbo-jumbo.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Why are we as a cohort of teachers still just ‘taking’ this? Is there nothing we can do about it collectively? I’m a union member and I want my union to be doing more – teachers are in a strong position to be clear and firm about what works and what does not – where is the united ‘push’ to get things changed?


  3. Have you blogged elsewhere about performance management? I accept what you say about the difficulty inherent in attributing a set of results to one teacher, but doesn’t that admission call into question the whole process? At what point and in what forum would you notice a pattern and act to address it?


  4. I agree completely but work for a MAT who still feel this is the way to go. Whilst they hold our achievement -SATs results- over us, not good enough according to them, we feel we cannot defend ourselves robustly. I agree that as a profession we should stand up and say no. I am also beginning to feel that teachers new to the profession don’t know there is another way and that teachers are allowed to have a backbone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry to say it this way, but this is what I despise about teaching in a British school setting. Sadly, this nonsense is now appearing in US common core and other school systems. Why are politicians and parents so hard pressed to make teachers hate their job?

    There is evidence out there that shows if you remove many of the hoops we have to jump through and let teachers teach, the students do better.


    • This nonsense doesn’t apply in all Brisitsh schools. None of these apply in my school, which is in a local authority where most schools are not in MATs. Some MATs (I know not all) are run by people who don’t understand teaching (or at any rate primary teaching) and so insist on these procedures in order to be able to make judgements and measurements. I know there is great learning going in in my school without any of this.
      (But I seem to be a bit of a dinosaur nowadays!)


  6. No. 8: agree with no lesson plans but feel annotated seating plans with pre-populated data (i.e. MINT seating) can have impact alongside a focus on underperforming students especially in large secondary schools where there is sig. gaps in progress. Be good to discuss more


    • They can help -but that’s different to saying teachers must have them; also there are major issues about having these things hanging around classrooms even in folders for data privacy reasons. Some good online tools are useful -eg in epraise. So, yes, I like a good seating plan but elevating them to a compulsory expectation is inappropriate in my view. Plenty of really fab teachers simply wouldn’t need them. And even if they are there, it wouldn’t necessarily mean a teacher was teaching any better.


      • We have to have annotated seating plans saved on our registration system, but the driver is to help anyone who has to cover a lesson (we’re a really big school). Fortunately none of the rest of this list applies.


      • In my old school, we needed seating plans with data on. PP data, Results data, colour coded to to show if a kid was on, below or above target.

        We had to print new ones off every half term when new assessments were done.

        I’m still not sure what the point was. Apart from it made it a hassle to make new ones, so I was reluctant to move pupils to new seats. Not only that, but it took a huge amount of man hours in the office to make a special sheet in Excel where all the grades would be available and it would do some kind of clever vlookup…

        Everyone new it was silly, and unproductive. But it was just the thing you had to do because ‘it’s the same everywhere’ and you have to do it ‘for Ofsted’. When OFSTED came in, of course they showed no interest in my seating plan whatsoever. And our 3 remained a 3.

        I left the UK to teach in an international school were the priority is on teaching and learning and proper, rich discussions around this, rather than compliance.


  7. Completely agree, but we are in danger of doing the same over and over again with our reliance on research and data. The education industry is a major impediment to change and inhibits teachers from trusting their instincts. Not sure about the bias implicit in much of the ‘evidence’ either, but the list should make us more aware before we are told something else that we must do


  8. We have begun to engage with pupils to set their own targets. This gets reviewed termly at progress discussion meetings. Pupils respond well and it has, I think, got pupils started thinking about their learning. Taking some ownership I suppose…


    • Target setting based around a subject-specific skill or area of content knowledge, such as successfully using semicolons or embedding quotations into critical essay writing makes sense, but giving them a number won’t make much difference to the pupil, unless it’s a number that’s lower than their mates’.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. My PGCE year insisted on ‘must/could/should’ LOs. I challenged it and wasn’t heard. In fact, I struggled to think of them because I couldn’t understand why I would teach a lesson where some students would only aim for a ‘must’. Last year (NQT), I didn’t use them, nobody questioned me and my students passed. Surprising, I know.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Seating plans with no purpose are pointless. I have seen tens of lessons across 11 schools this academic year with a complete range of expectations on this one. Many schools now use software such as Class Charts for this (it has other functionality too). Intelligent use by teachers and senior teams involves sharing information on decision making where pupils are seated. Classrooms do not come in one configuration with some teachers expected to teach in rooms which present difficulties compared to a basic rectangular shape. Lines of sight to the board, hearing quality and easy access to some pupils go beyond any simplistic gender, SEND, PP or ability considerations. Primary/Secondary needs also add another layer. Seating plans constructed thoughtfully are an essential tool of effective teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hallelujah, breath of fresh air…truth writ large. Thank you. Would be interesting to see how the recruitment and retention rates in this profession might improve if everyone, everywhere adopted this viewpoint.


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