My school is currently 'requires improvement' that means as a middle manager I am being sent on loads of courses.
On Tuesday, all of the middle managers attended the OFSTED conference, 'Improving Numeracy and Literacy'
We arrived early and realised we were totally underdressed! All the other men were wearing suits. I don't wear a suit for school so I wasn't wearing one for a conference. We found our seats and engaged in some small talk with people from other schools. Some of them were in a category, some were in the same boat as us and some had felt it was worthwhile to attend even though they were good to outstanding.
In the literacy workshop we were given some great messages. Teachers should be reading to their class out loud each day in order to engender a love of reading. I asked 'If Ofsted were observing me for 20 minutes and all I did was read a text for the pure enjoyment of it could I be graded outstanding?' Yes was the resounding answer. If children's eyes were on stalks, they were hanging on your every word and they moaned when you closed the book then that would be deemed outstanding. Excellent I thought, I love reading to my class.
I asked about Big Writing, if Ofsted came into a big writing session and all of the children were working independently without any teacher intervention could that be an outstanding session? The answer once again was yes. Even though they don't see the teacher teaching? If all of the children were working hard then yes that would be outstanding. I found this interesting as Ofsted did not like this when they visited my school in the autumn.
So it was very positive, however in the afternoon I had the opportunity to chat one to one with the 'Lead Inspector for English,' I asked her the same questions. About the reading, she said that she would not be able to give more than a satisfactory watching someone read. There would need to be some questioning, there would have to be some learning taking place. Enjoying the story would not be good enough.
About big writing she said that she would like to see the teacher doing something perhaps working with a group, prompting children to add to, edit their writing. So all of the positives of the morning sessions had been dashed.
How can these people be making a judgement on teaching in our schools if they do not know what is expected themselves. It all comes down to a single person's preference. If the HMI has a penchant for reading then they would like to see reading in every literacy session.
The lead inspector said that they were working on creating a more uniformed approach, perhaps it is a bit late for this. Perhaps they need to get a move on and sort this out. Their judgements ruin teachers' careers and lives.