To Grade or not to Grade….

As many of you will be aware there has been something of a “Twitter explosion” regarding lesson observation grading over half term involving vociferous arguments on all sides, a meeting between some bloggers and Ofsted and a release of “clarification” from Ofsted this week. This potentially has impact for schools on PRP, PM and preparation for inspection regardless of any ongoing questions about how to track, self-evaluate and really understand the quality of T&L in our schools. This blog is not a personal view, but instead an attempt to summarise the main points debated in order to allow colleagues in schools to debate their own way forward.

There are those who have long campaigned for the removal of lesson observation grading arguing they are meaningless and not representative of an individual teacher’s work over time.  Joe Kirby’s argument here from August and a presentation here from David Didau in  early February.

The debate became more heated in the last few weeks following a meeting of invited bloggers at Ofsted: Ross McGill (@teachertoolkit), David Didau (@LearningSpy), Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher), Tom Bennett (@TomBennett71) and Shena Lewington (@clerktogovernor). Each of them has respectively given their version of the meeting so I link here for you to sample each for yourself.

Following this meeting and the discussions arising came  clarification from Ofsted and Lead Inspectors that they will not be grading individual lessons and teachers should not expect to receive a grade for an observation during and inspection. Inspection is about evaluating the quality of education provided by the school, by considering a range of evidence, and not about evaluating, individually or collectively, the performance of teachers through short lesson observations  as explained in guidance here. A couple of Lead Inspectors, one of whom has a close association with inspecting schools recently in West Sussex also offered their explanation of Ofsted’s guidance and a helpful summary of Mike Cladingbowl’s points to boot:

Heather Leatt Summary

In terms of how schools respond to this change Tom Sherrington in his post: Keeping up with Ofsted’s Goalposts shared what he felt SLT’s should do now.  He challenges schools to:

  • Stop grading lessons; at the very least, stop using ‘OfSTED Criteria’ for lesson grades.
  • Remove references to lesson grades in all Performance Management protocols
  • Remove references to lesson grades in any Performance Related Pay policies

But there are also other views and considerations, they often highlight the need to be able understand  and make sense of the data we collect, the need to be able to see whole school patterns and be able to understand  and have a shared language for the T&L we are seeing and setting as our expectations.  James Bowkett here identifies the risk that without careful thought, when we remove grades we simply replace them with words which are effectively grades in another form.

Others raise questions around how school leaders will be able to know the overall quality of Teaching and Learning across their school if they do not have a quantitative way of analysing it. @Mike_Bostock is very clear that there cannot be outstanding school leadership without it. Whilst inspectors are not supposed to ask for a percentage of lessons that are Good or Outstanding, it is understood and confirmed by inspectors they will ask what the leadership view of the quality of T&L is and how they know. That will still need to be shown in a SEF.   Indeed the existing challenge remains that whilst a grade for teaching still exists on the EF used by inspectors then it is hard to understand how that is not a reflection on the teaching seen.

As school leaders we will need to discuss and decide on our own individual response that is right for our context and setting. It is understandable that some commentators are demanding that school leaders “stand up to” and “report” inspectors and inspections where proportions of the Quality of Teaching are asked for, when individual grades given or even styles of teaching preferred. However I suspect one’s ability to do so and confidence in challenging an inspection team may very well depend on the context of the inspection and position of the individual school. ASCL are advising that this is something agreed and clarified at the start of an inspection with the team.

What is clear is that at last formal observations graded or not, are being confirmed as just one piece of the jigsaw. A leadership ability to understand the typical experiences in their school, the learning over time and the breadth of evidence required to demonstrate that is being more openly explored. Tom Sherrington’s post above gives his perspective on the importance of bringing in a wider range of evidence to a judgement on teaching and learning and there are others here (missdcox)and here (John Tomsett) plus we know there are excellent models locally within West Sussex that can be shared.

The WSDN Curriculum Forum on 14th March (see @WSDN3 for details) has a main focus on Curriculum Design and Progress 8 measures but no doubt the debate on Lesson Grading and Observations will be a topic of conversation now and into the future. If colleagues have ideas about how we can best assist understanding and circulation of ideas then we are very happy to discuss. For now please feel free to leave your thoughts on this blog giving your own schools thoughts and plans or indicate a willingness to share your models.

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3 Responses to To Grade or not to Grade….

  1. Pingback: Teacher workloads, grading lessons and failure to support SEN pupils

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