Behaviour - Class Act - Judgment call

30th January 2009 at 00:00
How does Ofsted view bad behaviour? Selwyn Ward, an inspector, answers your questions

Q: Why are teachers blamed and lessons considered ineffective when it is due to pupils' poor behaviour?

A: This problem arises because you have introduced the notion of "blame", which is not one that is raised in this context by Ofsted.

If, for whatever reason, pupils don't make adequate progress, then, I am sure you will accept that the lesson will be inadequate. If the lack of progress is due to pupils misbehaving, then that is what inspectors will record. That does not mean they are blaming the teacher. The main problem might, for example, be the adequacy of the school's systems for supporting teachers and managing poor behaviour.

Ofsted is certainly aware of behaviour as a key area affecting learning. Many schools judged satisfactory, but where behaviour had been flagged as an issue, have had extra monitoring inspections.

Again, these are not about blame, but they do emphasise to school leaders the importance of dealing effectively with behaviour that prevents pupils from learning.

Q: Several pupils in my key stage 4 class have issues with their behaviour - swearing, having to be checked upon every five minutes to ensure work is being attempted, arguing with each other and attempting to argue with me.

What happens if, during an observed lesson, I were to send these pupils off with assigned work to another class? I know that any activities that involve these pupils moving around or making independent choices always results in an incomplete lesson with insufficient learning. If I were to have boring activities, but clear learning, would this affect my grade?

A: In most inspections, you wouldn't know in advance which lesson was being observed, so pre-emptive relocation of pupils is unlikely to be a practicable option. In any event, what is the point of inspectors being shown a scenario that is different to pupils' ordinary experience?

Pupils may well tell inspectors that the lessons are atypical. Moreover, if inspectors see much better progress in your lesson than seems typical from the pupils' work and test scores, you may well find them delving further to reconcile the discrepancy.

I think your question is predicated on the mistaken impression that inspectors are there to judge your individual teaching. They are not. Inspectors are visiting lessons to gauge the impact they have on pupils' learning and progress.

I am sure you will want to maximize pupils' learning, and that you'd want to do that regardless of whether or not the school is being inspected. If, as you say, movement around the classroom always results in significant loss of time and insufficient learning, it would make sense to keep that to a minimum.

The trick is getting the balance right: if activities are so boring that pupils switch off altogether, then, again, they are unlikely to be learning much

Selwyn Ward has been an inspector for 15 years, working in primary and secondary schools. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, contact him at

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