The chief inspector of schools “tears her hair out” over schools that continue to grade individual lessons, despite Ofsted no longer carrying out the practice.
Amanda Spielman also raised concerns about a lack of curriculum expertise in schools at today’s ResearchED annual conference, held at Chobham Academy in Stratford, east London.
During a speech that emphasised the importance of research evidence in the inspectorate’s work, she said: “Ofsted is absolutely right not to grade individual lessons now, and it would be great if all schools would stop doing it as well.
“One of the things that I get is that far too often inspectors are asked by school leaders ‘yes, but if you did grade lessons, what grade would you give it?’ It makes me tear my hair out.”
However, she said that lesson observations were a valuable tool, if they were properly designed around aggregations of well-made observations and you knew what inferences could be drawn.
She said the inspectorate was already carrying out research with parents on the way it reports, and is “testing out alternative versions of our reports” to communicate better and more clearly with parents.
She added that Ofsted was scoping research on how its grading structure affects school behaviour, which she described as “potentially very interesting but too early to talk about”.
One headteacher asked if she was considering scrapping the outstanding grade, which the headteacher described as giving schools a perverse incentive to inflate children’s results at the cost of their education.
Ms Spielman said that consideration of the outstanding grade “comes into the wider programme, but it’s not a thing in its own right”.
She stressed that, although curriculum was Ofsted’s main focus this year, it was not about creating an “Ofsted prescribed curriculum”, or introducing preferred styles by a back door.
She said she would publish a commentary later this month that followed some fieldwork Ofsted had carried out, but added: “One issue that comes up time and again really is the lack of expertise in schools now about curriculum thinking, about the content, the design, the implementation.
"Few schools are thinking really clearly about what should be taught in each subject, and how that content is best sequenced and how it should be fitted together to make sure each child’s whole school experience.”