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'Online teacher rating? Spare me the personality contest'

A ‘Tripadvisor for teachers’ is always going to be fraught with problems – hearing your pupils’ opinions in person will give you a more reliable steer on how you’re doing

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A ‘Tripadvisor for teachers’ is always going to be fraught with problems – hearing your pupils’ opinions in person will give you a more reliable steer on how you’re doing

Have you heard of Rate My Teachers? It’s a website that lets users anonymously do just that. The site claims its purpose is to help students, parents and teachers to, ahem, “make informed decisions by promoting transparency within education”.

As any of us who have spent more than five minutes online will know, it won’t really work like that. So, just as celebrities should never read the comments about them on news stories, I won’t be searching for myself on any time soon.

That said, I do think pupil voice is really important. When it comes to pupils rating teachers’ personalities, so many factors get in the way that the process is not likely to be helpful, let alone fair. But if I’m monitoring teaching and learning in a subject, pupils’ insights can really help me to gain a fuller picture of what is going on.

Giving pupils a voice

I find that the most helpful way to go about this is to chat to a small group of children from one class, so that it feels more like an informal discussion, and they have the chance to “bounce off” one another and remind each other of different things. I also keep the questions quite open.

Here are some examples from a recent round of monitoring computing:

* Tell me about what you’re learning in computing at the moment.

* How are your computing lessons helping you learn to stay safe online?

* Before Christmas, you worked on a unit about xyz. Describe some of the things you learned while doing this.

* I’ve been looking at some of your work on xyz. Can you tell me about this?


Questions like that last one mean I have to familiarise myself with the work pupils are doing before I sit down to speak with them, but these are definitely the questions that I find most beneficial. When talking to children, I find it fascinating to hear them describe the specifics of what they have learned, which I might not always be able to tell just from, say, looking at their work.

I sometimes also ask them how I could help teachers across the school to improve the subject further, which again takes the focus away from individual teachers and instead centres it on me as a subject – and teaching and learning – leader.

Naturally, I am aware that everything the children tell me is their perception of things, but combining this with the other usual monitoring suspects – examples of work, lesson observation and assessment – it helps me to get as clear a picture as possible of teaching and learning, without resorting to an anonymous personality competition.

Claire Lotriet is assistant headteacher at Henwick Primary School in London. She tweets at @OhLottie

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