#UKFEchat go to Ofsted

Last year saw several school teachers actively involved on twitter get invited to discuss concerns over inspection processes with Ofsted. It was great to read their blogs following these meetings, and a step in the right direction for ensuring consistency of Ofsted inspections. However those of us within the further education sector (particularly #UKFEchat) wondered if anyone from Ofsted wanted to listen to us. Well the answer was YES, and on Tuesday the 3rd of March 2015 we got our chance. This was thanks to a lot of hard work done by Sarah Simons over a period of time (I think she may have sold her soul too, but we are not allowed to talk about that).

We all arrived at Ofsted HQ in London with a clear agenda on what we would like to discuss. Here are the four themes:

  • Lesson observations and grading
  • Maths and English
  • Data
  • Consistency in observations and expertise 

None us really knew what to expect and with only an hour it seemed unlikely we would get through everything. Once we had all arrived and were ‘lanyarded up’ we could not help acting like we were on a school trip. So yes, the obligatory pose infront of the Ofsted sign and several selfies later we were escorted up to Lorna Fitzjohn’s office. As there was several of us (ten in total) the lift up resembled a scene from ‘Bill and Teds excellent adventure’. We did try for a selfie of this but alas, Sarah, despite previously threatening me with her selfie stick, failed in bringing it. 

Just so you know as there seemed to be some interest in biscuits at the past Ofsted meetings. They were very posh and individually wrapped. It turns out further education teachers are not so interested in biscuits. As I they remained untouched. 

Lorna greeted us and my nerves eased a little when I saw she had no devil horns or giant pitch fork in her hand. To be fair she did most of the talking but that was down to her addressing each theme Sarah put to her. Several of us added our thoughts, experiences of Ofsted inspections and questions in relation to the themes aswell.

Here are some of my personal notes and thoughts from the meeting:

  • Information discussed on the training of new inspectors suggests a timely and rigorous process. Also Ofsted are currently seeking more practitioners within FE to be trained up. I would be interested in hearing more about what goes into the training.
  • From what was said of the pilot scheme for non graded observations there is a mixed response to not having them. As it is no longer required in schools one would hope it will be the same for FE. However I think we are likely to still have graded observations, I could be wrong though. Personally I think the focus on feedback and support for a teachers is more important than knowing what grade you are.
  • Ofsted are well aware of the issues with English and maths and can see it is a major issue at present. Lorna acknowledged the challenge we have of getting students through GCSEs in a year as opposed to two years. However that is in the hands of the DfE.
  • It seems that demographic data is considered when inspecting. However coming from a seaside town many of our secondary schools have not felt that this is the case. Also with regards to data it would be looked at electronically unless for some reason it needs looking into further.
  • Lorna seemed committed to the standardisation of inspections and made a point of saying that Ofsted should be contacted if people thought that a consistency of standards wasn’t being upheld. In addition to this no lesson plans are required if there is a detailed scheme of work.

The meeting went well and UKFEchat have been invited back later this year to discuss thoughts on how the new CIF is going within FE. 

The seminar (further education and the May election)

post its

On Friday the 27th February a range of further education practitioners were invited to a seminar run by the TES. This seminar was to help form some key questions to put to whichever government gets to take over us in May.

As I arrived at the entrance of the Grade 1 listed Over-Seas House in London I felt like I was stepping back in time. I have to admit I was slightly hesitant in stepping through the gates as this Northern lass is not used to such posh places. I finally stopped gawping at the building and went in and met some fellow #ukfechat teachers, together we made our way to the function room. Jo Bale (@jo_bale) and I were utterly fascinated by the crinoline staircase and got slightly distracted. However we managed to refocus and made our way to the function room.

Excitedly I sat at a table I had been allocated to and then suddenly had a student moment when I realised I would be separated from my #ukfechat chums. I soon got over it as I am blessed with my dads Irish genes, which basically means I can talk most people’s ‘ears off’ given half a chance.

The opportunity to be able to meet a range of further education practitioners from various sectors was fantastic. We all had similar concerns about what is going on in further education and more importantly what will happen come May election time.

The Deputy Editor of the TES, Ed Dorrell (@Ed_Dorrell) and TES columnist and founder of #ukfechat Sarah Simons (@MrsSarahSimons) hosted the event. Ed kicked it off by getting us to picture this newly appointed person who had just been handed the further education sector and all of the decisions he/she could make. He did a great job and it certainly put us into action (and mild panic). Ed and Sarah reminded us to steer clear of funding in discussions as that was a given anyway for our sector. Armed with marker pens, giant post it notes (which I fell I love with) and the most amazing cakes we all discussed and debated what was going on the list and what was not. The table I was on started off with good old maths and English and the issues surrounding them. Then we got on to teaching qualifications and all the changes that have been made to them. We could have gone on all day but thankfully Ed and Sarah had us on a time limit.

Somehow I got landed the job of writing on a giant post it (did I tell you how much I love these?) which is funny as I have the worst writing in the world! Anyway somehow I also ended up being the one feeding back. So standing up at the front and in my best Lancashire accent I gave out our points and reasons for them being on the list, here are some of them:

  • Maths and English – functional skills, GCSE or other? Make your mind up!
  • Teacher qualifications – we should be required to have a teaching qualification but which?
  • Standardisation – basically of everything! CPD, grading observations the list is endless.

The other tables came back with similar thoughts and Ed and Sarah were able to come up with six key points to work from. These will be shared back with us to discuss once they have been looked over back at TES towers. I will update this blog when it happens.

Finally we also got a chance to put ideas down for what we would like to see in the TES for further education. They are interested in developing their further education section and I can tell you now none of us were short of ideas on how. Keep your eye on the TES, further education is hopefully about to get a bigger voice.


Update – 01/05/2015

Sarah Simons has now written up the #UKFEchat manifesto in the TES. Click here to read it.