The Simplest Way To Solve Several Ofsted Problems

2nd December 2013

Could the system be better though? Sure.

Back in May I posited one simple idea which I still think would make a massive differenceOfsted should publish the observation notes from all lessons rated as outstanding. These could be anonymised and batch-released to avoid data protection problems. Or, if we’re going to be really fussy, we could just ask teachers for permission to publish them. I’m willing to be most teachers would be chuffed with the accolade.

Releasing this information would do a few things:

(1) It would put paid to the idea that Ofsted has a “preferred” teaching style – Michael Wilshaw keeps saying they do not, bloggers such as Andrew Old keep showing this isn’t reflected in Ofsted’s behaviour. One or the other is correct. Show us the notes, and we’ll soon know the truth.

(2) It will reveal inconsistencies across services – Ofsted is not just delivered by one group. It is delivered by contracted parties. But all should be judging under the same rules. Revealing the observation notes, even of judgments just at the top end, should show how consistently rules are being applied across groups.

(3) It will mean Ofsted inspectors have to write reasons in their notes – These reasons will then provide insight to the profession about what is expected. Again, providing the reasons are sensible, this should allay concerns that inspectors are wacky progressivist monsters.

(4) It would be really interesting and useful – As a teacher working a full time-table you don’t get to observe your colleagues very often, and because of this you miss out on learning about the really wonderful things happening in other classrooms. Bloggers help with this, a bit, as do things like #edchat. But given that Ofsted inspectors are getting to see our very best classrooms it would be a fantastic resource to know how outstanding practice is moving forward and what sort of techniques are leading to great learning.

But the most maddening thing is that this action has already been agreed! Back in September @educationgovuk, the DfE’s official site, tweeted that Ofsted would be doing this very thing. Yet, it’s now 3 months and….no further word.

And that’s a shame because it is a very simple change. It won’t solve everything, but it could solve some things.  So come on Ofsted, show us your notes!