True Ofsted Conversation #1

 

images 2Hey there. Whilst away from work due to a serious case of the sniffles I found myself reminiscing about one of my many joyful moments from my recent ofsted inspection. Here I have written the transcript of a conversation I had with the lead inspector after a twenty minute lesson observation. See if you can guess the part where it began to dawn on me that the inspector was slightly insane and was not going to budge from her relatively fixed agenda.

Ofsted 

Did you see what happened in that lesson?

Head

I was there yes, I saw what happened.

Ofsted 

What happened?

Head

Were you there? I think you were there, I definitely saw you there.

Ofsted

But what did you see?

Head

I saw a lesson on measuring.

Ofsted

And what were the children doing.

Head

They were measuring the perimeter of irregular shapes and using their knowledge of shape properties to work out lengths of certain sides that weren’t known. Some of them were then converting into different units of measurement.

Ofsted

And could the children do it?

Head

They were having a jolly good go and many of them were being successful.

Ofsted

All the children I saw could do it.

Head

Great, teacher did their job then. Now next we’re going to see –

Ofsted

-they could all do it. I saw them do two in a row.

Head

Yeeesssss.

Ofsted

They could already do it.

Teacher

Well no, the teacher showed them how at the start of the lesson.

Ofsted

I didn’t see that

Head

No, you were finding one of your forms as the lesson started but her plan says she taught it and the work before was not the same and I asked some of the children if they had done it before and they hadn’t.

Ofsted

I heard you ask those questions. Why did you ask those questions, those questions won’t tell you anything.

Head

Sorry what?

Ofsted

I didn’t see anything that showed me they couldn’t do it before the lesson. Where was the challenge?

Head

Well, at the start of the lesson they probably couldn’t do it, that’s why the teacher taught them how to do it at the start of the lesson…that you didn’t see.

Ofsted

How do you know they couldn’t do it?

Head

They hadn’t done it before in their books and I asked them if they could have done it at the start; I asked if they needed to have listened to the teacher before having a go themselves or could they have just got on with it.

Ofsted

I heard you ask that. Why did you ask that question?

Head

Well, it helps me judge the level of challenge or if the teacher is wasting their time.

Ofsted

OK and what did the child tell you.

Head

She said that she may have been able to do the first two but after that she would have got stuck unless the teacher had showed them how. Then another child on their table agreed that number three was really hard.

Ofsted

Of course they said that to you because you’re the Head.

Head

Sorry come again?

Ofsted

They tell you want they think you want to hear. That’s why I don’t ask those questions.

Head

Hmmmmm. I’m not sure I agree with you on-

Ofsted

-I saw nothing but work done correctly during that lesson.

Head

Right…

Ofsted

No challenge, there was no challenge in that lesson.

Head

But, they couldn’t do it at the start and then the teacher taught them so they could and therefore they were able to do the work.

Ofsted

Why didn’t the teacher move them on.

Head

Because they had only been able to do it for twenty minutes I’m guessing the teacher thought a bit more consolidation could be a good idea. Plus on her plan she is extending them in the plenary and tomorrow they’re solving a problem.

Ofsted

Well I didn’t see that. I didn’t see any challenge so we have to say that lesson required improvement.

Head

Get out of my school. Get out of my school now or I will beat you to death with my pupil premium tracker that I was up all night amending and you haven’t even LOOOKED AT IT!

(I didn’t actually say that last bit, but the rest of it is true. If you’re waiting for Ofsted…enjoy!)

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20 thoughts on “True Ofsted Conversation #1

  1. Michael Tidd May 22, 2013 / 9:54 pm

    It’s a frightening nonsense, but might I suggest after Mr Gove’s words recently that this is exactly the sort of thing that needs to be brought directly to the attention of both Mr Gove and Sir Michael?

    • theprimaryhead May 22, 2013 / 10:10 pm

      Definitely. For my own specific needs I got the result the school needed to move on after a very unstable few years. But the process I had to go through over those two days was soul destroying. Never felt so ‘inadequate’. Not great after 5 months on the job.

      • Michael Tidd May 22, 2013 / 10:15 pm

        Glad the overall outcome was appropriate, but it’s so unacceptable that that should depend on the many whims of the many and varied teams we face !

  2. marvinsuggs May 23, 2013 / 6:39 am

    Thank you. I needed that. We had a colleague be told she was ‘too enthusiastic’. There’s no arguing in the face of such resolute single mindedness. Sorry I meant madness.

  3. Jason Buckley May 23, 2013 / 8:52 am

    It’s scary. This inspector has obviously got hold of a few good ideas, such as that if children aren’t making mistakes, they’re not learning. But then applies them with the intelligence of a speak-your-weight machine. Nobody in OFSTED seems to have noticed the contradiction between using language that is about feedback, growth and learning within an institutional framework that is about monitoring, grading and performance. Each inspector seems to have just enough learning to make them dangerous, accompanied by a zealot’s certainty that it’s “my way, or no way”.

    It would be rather wonderful if a few headteachers were actually “mystery shoppers” – tasked with evaluating the OFSTED teams that cam in to them. Glad you made it back to the real world!

  4. tony May 23, 2013 / 9:40 am

    makes me wonder do they intend sending in the forced academy goons to meet up with your Governors.

  5. Michael Hughes May 23, 2013 / 8:25 pm

    I am reminded of an HMI (way back in the 60s) who criticised my father’s school because the children worked too hard. The more it changes the more it stays the same.
    Question: Who ofsteds the ofsted inspectors?

  6. Bill Lord May 25, 2013 / 5:55 pm

    After an inspection in our Primary school led by a full time AI (who has never led a school), supported by a full time AI (who led a department in Seoncdary) and a third inspector who is an LA MFL advisor (who logically inspected Early Years and has never led a school) I can share many of your frustrations.
    The two days included use of the wrong framework for safeguarding, describing a DfE / ESPO accredited phonics approach as ‘running against national advice’, a day of Early Years inspection which excluded outdoor observations as the inspector hadn’t brought a coat and it was cold, a disagreement / argument between two inspectors in front of the SLT and an inspector grading a lesson involving outdoor learning as ‘good’ but opining that children don’t learn as well when it is cold.
    We were so disillusioned with the whole process even though the judgement was largely in line with our self evaluation that it could have seriously derailed our school improvement. However, as a school judged as RI we received a visit from an HMI which was excellent and has clearly helped us to continue to improve things at school. What is wrong is the fact that in the end, having written a complaint, we did not submit it as we didn’t want to raise our heads above the parapet.

    • theprimaryhead May 26, 2013 / 2:33 pm

      Totally agree. The overall judgement was what the school ‘needed’ and we’re all fully behind moving the school forward but the manner in which Ofsted team went about it was awful. We also dared not complain. Still waiting for hmi and looking forward to it.

  7. Dusty67 May 26, 2013 / 6:57 pm

    Our experience was much the same; they’d made up their mind we were good before they came in and wouldn’t recognise any of the teaching as outstanding. In January in Y6 (in an area of high deprivation)
    Ofsted: “All the children were working on the same thing, so there wasn’t enough challenge in the lesson”:
    Me “All the children were working at Lv 5, I think thats lots of challenge for this time of year in Y6!”
    Ofsted: “There wasn’t enough challenge!”
    Me: “Did you not see the teacher take them to Lv6 objectives”
    Ofsted:”They were all doing the same thing, so not enough challenge.”
    Me: “It’s a small class of 19, they are all working at Lv5 and the teacher took them not Lv6. I think that’s enough challenge!”
    Ofsted: “It was good, to be outstanding there needed to be more challenge”
    Me: “Grrrrrrrrr”

  8. Alex Smith July 20, 2013 / 10:54 am

    The ‘soul-destruction’ really comes from the fact that, as you said, inspectors and moderators have a fixed agenda before they even enter the school. Our children, who we care so much about, are pawns in a political game and the only way to stop it is to share these stories with as many people as possible.
    We need PARENTS to know that their children are being used in this way, because if we as teachers complain, we just sound like we are whining, but if we reveal how children are set up to fail, perhaps the electorate will pressurise the government.

  9. Lisa Bialek October 19, 2013 / 8:56 pm

    Whilst teaching a Law and Morality lesson to a group of A2 Law students, the Ofsted inspector told me ‘The lesson was exceptional…but I’m giving you a 3’. On asking why she said that I hadn’t moved around with my board (which is fixed to the wall) and I hadn’t used images of rape. I explained that my internet filter at work wouldn’t allow such images and I also felt that it wasn’t acceptable. On that note I asked her about her background…she told me that she’d produced an NVQ for an airline…I left the room at that point.

  10. *VV@|d ®@m* October 21, 2013 / 7:45 pm

    Reblogged this on batttuk and commented:
    Great stuff from the primary head… as usual.

  11. Russell Taylor October 21, 2013 / 9:26 pm

    There is absolutely no consistency amongst inspections, nor inspectors! Some comments I have heard from recent inspections: not enough challenge – grade 3; too slow a pace – grade 3; too much challenge – grade 3; too fast a pace – grade 3; children should sometimes leave lessons feeling confused because they have been challenged and will then have to think more deeply outside of the lesson… because this wasn’t the case – grade 3; two students could not articulate precisely their understanding of a challenging topic after 15 mins, so limited progress (even though after 45 mins all pupils were able to articulate in writing and orally their understanding of the abstract theoretical concept) – grade 3. Our system of inspection is completely unjust; or dare I say it… ‘inadequate’ and not fit for purpose!

  12. Brian Drakeford January 26, 2016 / 4:36 pm

    You poor buggers! I was Head for 30 years. Shortlisted for Senior Adviser in my county and later HMI. Entered OFSTED training prior to retirement. Then realised what a circus it was and what a ‘gravy train was in the making. Decided there was more to life and retired to the Dordogne. Friends , this process will kill you if you don’t actively seek ways of protecting yourselves.

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