First impressions don't tell the whole story

20th September 2013 at 01:00

The reaction by Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw (inset, right) to the criticisms of Professor Robert Coe is typical of the circular and arrogant thinking so often heard in schools when Ofsted comes to call - we say it is so and therefore it is so.

The current system that relies on observations of part lessons, a 25-minute chunk from which judgements are extrapolated about the quality of the whole meal, must surely lead to some inaccuracy. Short-notice, two-day inspections mean that inspectors have to arrive at a school with a hypothesis based on published achievement data. Does that colour the judgement of the 25 minutes seen of the first lesson of the day? Many schools find that their lesson observations are less favourable on the first morning.

The point is that, as Professor Coe notes, there is no evidence other than anecdotal to give us confidence in the system. Instead, we have to put up with a circular argument: if achievement isn't good, then teaching can't be good and nor can your leadership.

Ofsted-style lesson observation devalues the complexity of the craft of teaching and undermines the professionalism of teachers. Inspections are a blunt tool that need reforming. Evidence-based accountability would be a good place to start.

Stewart Goacher, Leicestershire.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today