So, Ofsted has removed the infamous grade for individual lessons within FE and skills. This comes as no surprise, considering that schools did the same thing last year after some well-informed Twitterati challenged the status quo.
In the next few months, schools and FE and skills will fall under a common framework, with a common approach to judgements and a common message that Ofsted is willing to listen and change. Great!
One thing that concerns me, though, is what follows for the many colleges that have in the past been strong-armed into adopting punitive Ofsted systems - processes that judge teaching, learning and assessment based on about 0.1 per cent of lessons delivered; that bring teachers to tears and make them feel unvalued; that have done little to improve teaching, learning and assessment.
It will be interesting to see how many FE and skills providers take the opportunity to ditch the individual lesson grade and dive into the "pool of development", and how many will walk towards the pool like a nervous non-swimmer, willing only to dip their toes in and cautiously tweak their processes to make the grade less important.
Will there also be some aquaphobes that avoid the pool altogether and stick to grading individual lessons? I predict that these are more likely to be the colleges currently regarded as "requires improvement" or "inadequate". But given the abundance of evidence on the flaws of graded lesson observation and the huge push by the regulator to adopt an alternative approach, it leaves me asking what institution in its right mind would keep the process.
Another thing concerning me is what Ofsted will be using to form an overall grade for teaching, learning and assessment. How can it "magic up" an overall number without accumulating grades from lessons? In theory, it should acquire evidence from a number of areas such as learner progress, feedback and lesson observations. Yet it still bemuses me how a concrete judgement can be formed on these things.
There's no disputing that some form of accountability needs to exist. With such ambiguity and lack of certainty over the role of Ofsted, however, I predict that the regulator as we know it will cease to exist in the not-too-distant future, and a move to a peer-review model will be explored as an alternative.
Dan Stevens teaches at an FE college in the North of England
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