We were recently inspected. I did not blog about it before now because I was annoyed and I wanted to wait until some time had passed in which I could think and calm down.
What OFSTED had to say about Maths was annoying. The SLT response to what OFSTED said about Maths was infuriating.
In summary what OFSTED said about Maths was:
- The results were good (This was a surprise to no one)
- The predicted grades were too low (This was because we were told that are predictions the previous year were too high so everyone predicted low).
- The target grades for some pupils were too low (This is set in an arbitrary fashion by SLT and thus not a problem of our making)
- The quality of marking is “variable” (inevitable if there is more than one teacher in a department)
- The quality of teaching is “variable” (again inevitable) and they saw the full range of qualities of teaching from outstanding to inadequate (I was under the impression they were not supposed to say stuff like that any more)
- The quality of marking had dropped since the start of term.
- They felt that the plan for improving the maths results was a good plan.
- They had little confidence that the department could sustain carrying out the plan.
Now there are a few issues with this:
- The target grades are too low at the top end and too high for some pupils at the bottom end. In every school I have worked in this has been the case. The target grades being unrealistic for some of our weaker pupils has NEVER been mentioned as a problem. Why?
- The criticism of the marking (which I won’t go into detail about) was the kind of criticism that is typically made by those who are not Maths specialists. I was not surprised after hearing the criticism to discover that the people that inspected the Maths department did not have a Maths specialist among them.
- The feedback was rather vague and as one might expect from observers that are not subject specialists was more about generalities than the specific feedback you tend to get from a subject specialist. Nobody found their feedback especially enlightening.
- If a plan requires a workload commitment that cannot be sustained then it is fundamentally flawed. To suggest that a plan is good and then in the next breath to say you think it’s unsustainable for the staff is ridiculous.
- Most teachers felt that based on their feedback from the inspectors their lesson had gone ok but the inspectors said they saw the full range of standards of teaching. If the inspectors had given clear and honest feedback to staff I don’t see how both of those things are possible
- If the inspection team had looked at the data before arriving (and I’m sure they had) then they would have known that the drop in Maths results was the most pressing issue the school faced. With that in mind would it have been that difficult to find a maths specialist to look at Maths?
At the department meeting after the OFSTED the Headteacher started the meeting by telling us what the inspectors had said about Maths in the meetings and discussions at which SLT had been present. SLT had also done a few joint observations with OFSTED and so he also reported back what they had seen.
I wouldn’t dispute the narrative that we were presented with although I have some minor issues with the interpretation of that narrative that are too boring and trivial to go into.
The short version of the meeting is that we were to all intents and purposes informed that we aren’t doing our jobs properly and thus need to have no notice learning walks on a weekly basis.
We were given a lengthy list of things that we all have to do (some of which is reasonable stuff that most of us do anyway and some isn’t) and we will be closely scrutinised to make sure we are all doing all of them.
One of the things on the list is diagnostic marking fortnightly with pupil responses (which I blogged about here https://mylifeasacynicalteacher.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/book-scrutiny-once-again-shows-that-i-dont-do-much-of-things-i-think-are-pointless/ ). I was under the impression OFSTED did not expect to see this (although I think the word “excessive” was used in relation to this so I’m not sure what would be “excessive”)
I was disappointed/relieved to note that the aim of this is apparently to “reduce the variablity of practice within the department” and not “to improve results”. I was disappointed because if the point of it isn’t to improve results then why do it. I was relieved because it seems that nobody is under the illusion that calling the department lazy and **** and generally irritating the hell out of us is unlikely to make anyone’s work or the results any better. Nor is making it abundantly clear that you don’t trust the department a good way to get more than the minimum out of anyone.
What nobody acknowledged is that the department put in an awful lot of hours last year into rectifying the terrible year 10 results. If SLT and OFSTED were unhappy with the results last year then imagine how incandescent with rage they would have been had the department not put in those hours.
Personally, I inherited a class that had awful grades, poor behaviour and a worse work ethic. They all had a target of C. I was informed that they were all expected to get a C and that it was vital that they all pass. Their end of year 10 results consisted of one C, a scattering of Ds, over half the class had Es, one had an F and one had a U. In the end half the class got a C.
For half of a C/D borderline class to not get a C is obviously disappointing but I felt that given what they started the year with I had done ok with them. The main disappointment was that a few of their mock exam results were better than their final exams. My view appears to be very much a minority view-point.
The most disappointing thing about the SLT response to OFSTED has been the tone. Our department works hard. The teachers are all pretty decent. It wouldn’t have been that hard to get everyone onside and moving forward together instead of the oppressive nastiness that has been inflicted on us.
I like the school, I like the department, I like the kids. I used to think the school was well led. Now I’m not so sure. One thing I can say for certain is that if there is not a distinct change in the tone of communications between our department and SLT then I will be leaving.
That is a real shame because the school and the department were incredibly supportive of me last year when I had a very difficult time at home. I would like to repay that but I will not tolerate the sort of nonsense I am now faced with for long.