Making the grade (up)

The hangovers are slowly starting to fade and the bunting is being taken down. The celebrations that followed the great victory over the Ofsted steamroller have been, well, if not exactly epic then they haven’t been totally subdued either.

As the last few lager cans are swept from the gutter I think it might be time to ask what exactly has changed? Better minds than mine have already applied themselves to the detailed changes in the guidance documents which is good because all I want to concentrate on here is the Quality of Teaching grade.

It has been said, to put it in layman’s terms, that Ofsted will no longer grade the quality of teaching in individual lessons. This is already a chinese whisper away from what they actually said, which was that they “no longer record on evidence forms a grade on the quality of teaching for indivdual lesson observations”. This is despite the evidence collection form having a box on the form specifically for that purpose. It is true that the form is for all evidence collection, lesson observation being only one form of evidence. So lets give the benefit go the doubt here and assume that no inspector will ever again write a grade in that box as the result of a single lesson observation.

But here is where there is a little bit of an issue, for me at least.

The inspector needs to give a Quality of Teaching grade for the school. Also, given that the box is on the form there is no injunction that prevents an inspector from writing down a grade for Quality of Teaching for any other piece of evidence they come across.

So firstly there is the slightly strange position that grades can be written down for Quality of Teaching based on anything other than the observation of the teaching itself. I don’t think that this would pass the alien test.

Secondly, somehow the inspectors have to take all the evidence from the lesson observations (and the other non-observation evidence) and come up with an overall grade. Seriously, are they going to go through thirty or forty lessons, discussing the evidence they have seen and not, at any point voice a view along the lines of “…so I think that lesson would be a….”. Thinking about it, it would be wrong if they did not, simply for purposes of internal moderation. I suppose it would be possible, for example, for two teachers to agree an overall grade for a student in a shared class without each ever having graded a single piece of their work, but I’m not sure it would be wise.

In short, I remain unconvinced that grades for individual lessons will not be apportioned.

Ofsted are between a rock and a hard place here. I suspect that deep down they realise that making  a judgement on the Quality of Teaching is, given the very close correlation of this grade to that of attainment, a bit of a waste of time. Many people have argued this position (including me). That’s the hard place. The rock is the politics of stopping making a grade on Quality of Teaching. This would not play well with a certain audience.

I will also state, for the record, that I don’t believe that anyone is trying to be dishonest or disingenuous here. I genuinely think that Ofsted are trying to do the best they can within the constraints they face. But they are being very careful with how they word things and that I don’t like.

I’m a parent and a school governor. As a parent I trust my children’s schools to ensure that their teachers are excellent. However, as Ronald Reagan said, “doveryai no proveryai”. The school results give me the verification that is happening. As a governor I know the teaching in our school is excellent because the school leadership monitors it and reports to us, in a formal structured way that this is so. And again, we have the external results to back up this judgement. Consequently, I don’t need Ofsted to make the same judgement. It’s waste of their time and my taxpayer pounds for them to have to do so, providing no knowledge over and above what the attainment grade tells us.

That’s all.