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Teachers still convinced Ofsted grades their lessons

Watchdog's director of education insists that the presence of an inspector in your classroom does not mean your lesson is being graded

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Watchdog's director of education insists that the presence of an inspector in your classroom does not mean your lesson is being graded

Many teachers are under the mistaken impression that Ofsted is still grading their individual performance, according to the inspectorate’s national director of education.

Sean Harford says that, even though Ofsted no longer grades teachers’ performance, teachers struggle to believe that this is the case.

“I’ve heard teachers say, ‘They must still be grading us – they can’t do it otherwise,’” Mr Harford told TES.

Since the elimination of individual lesson ratings, inspectors still visit classrooms and note down the strengths and weaknesses of lessons that they observe. No grade is given, but these notes are used to provide feedback for individual teachers. Inspectors talk through their observations and form collective conclusions about the school.

“You sit down and talk through all you’ve seen,” Mr Harford said. “Then you say, ‘X, y and z seem to be strengths; these other areas seem to be where things could be better.’

“But I get the impression that some teachers may think, ‘Well, how can that happen? They must still be grading us, in the back of their minds.”

Back of their minds

In a letter to inspectors, published at the end of last week, Mr Harford said that evidence supporting the overall judgement of quality of teaching, learning and assessment had not been deminished since the end of ratings for individual lessons.

The letter stated: “When observing lessons and feeding back to teachers afterwards, we must not give the incorrect impression that any graded judgment has been formed.”

Mr Harford told TES: “I wanted to make sure that there was no intimation, from what inspectors say, that they were still grading in the back of their minds.

“All of our training happens regularly, but we need to keep reminding people about stuff. Also, it’s a good way of reassuring people out there in the sector.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary-elect of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that it was understandable that teachers would be anxious about the presence of an inspector at the back of their classrooms.

"Probably the best way of puncturing that is to be very clear about what inspectors are doing there," he said. 

"Are they looking at students' behaviour? Are they looking at the quality of marking in the books? Teachers would probably be very reassured to know what it is they are looking at."

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