Ofsted consultation. Have you had your say yet?


Ofsted are giving us all the opportunity to have our say on the new proposal for the inspection framework (see here). If you have not completed the consultation questionnaire yet you should! All educational settings are being encouraged to speak up about the inspection process (yes that even includes FE). I know the sceptics among you will think what’s the point they’ll just do what they want anyway. Well there is a point, we can choose to do nothing or we can all show that we do care and are concerned on how an inspection is done. Yes it does require you to read the proposal but it is an easy read (and not too lengthy). If  you want to just tick boxes you can, but hopefully some of the questions you come across will urge you to comment. Please don’t choose to do nothing, FE needs to change many things and one thing I personally want to see change is the observation process, namely the grading system (see here). You may have other areas to focus on, so get a move on we only have till the 5th December!

The problem with observations and grading in FE


I’ve read so many posts about observation and the for and against grading so I would like to add my own thoughts too. I am not in any position of authority, I hold no rank, I am a subject tutor within a further education college and I’d like to add I’m happy with this. I am also happy to be observed, however I’d rather it be without the grade. There I’ve said it! I’ve wanted to write this post for some time but I didn’t have the confidence to do so. I’ve finally realised blogging is not about worrying about how many people will read your post or when they do read it think you’re an idiot. Quite frankly I really don’t care, I just want my say and if anyone wants to say anything I’ll happily take their views onboard.

I am aware that in some FE colleges teachers get an idea of when they will have their internal observations. It usually is one per year lasting roughly forty-five minutes to an hour. Some colleges are now doing two per year with each observations lasting between twenty to thirty minutes. My college is focussing on the two a year and unannounced. I like this, in my mind you should be the same teaching regardless of who comes into your session. I’ve always been graded good with outstanding, the one time I got the big grade one I knew when I was being observed and made sure I ticked all the  boxes. Anyway the point I’m trying to make is that I’d rather be consistently good.

What concerns me about the grading is some of the responses FE colleges have if a teacher is graded a three or four. They undergo another observation for the sake of confirming the observer has graded them correctly by having the head of department in the observation too! I don’t agree with this I think this makes the observee feel even more under pressure. Surely if you’ve been graded a three or four you should get support to improve rather than be re observed. How is this helpful, is this about ticking boxes again? We all have had the lessons that just go horribly wrong (apologies to the ones that this has never happened to, p.s tell me your secret) but that doesn’t mean we are crap teachers.

Anyway I digress, back to grading. It is fair to say that once you’ve done at least a year of teaching you have a fairly good idea of how each of your lessons has gone and where you fit in with the grading criteria (if you so wish). However, surely the feedback is more important than what grade you get? Plus in some departments it turns into a playground bragging about grades. Also some are so focused on what grade they get that the feedback may aswell be on a post-it note, you know the really tiny ones you use for marking pages in books. I just want the grades to go and more focus on the quality of feedback. Also the right type of support for those teachers that are struggling. Like behaviour management tips, structure of the lesson, quality of resources and so on.

Ditch the grades in all FE colleges please, I really don’t see the value of them. If anyone does I’m happy to listen as it makes no sense to me.