Posts Tagged ‘Ofsted’

Tips for Surviving a Teacher Observation

December 1, 2014



Nobody loves being “observed” whilst they are going about their job. Here are some helpful tips courtesy of


As you stand in front of your appraising tutor at your first PGCE observation, you’ll no doubt be feeling anxious. But remember; they’ll have seen hundreds of these lessons and witnessed every type of disaster – which means they’ll rarely be surprised or shocked.

Unlike Ofsted, which makes summative judgements, your tutor is looking for good work to build on.

Graham Birrell, senior education lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, and co-author of Succeeding on your Primary PGCE, says the assessments made by your tutors, mentors and class teachers are formative. “The most important thing to go in with is a positive mindset.”

Joanna Sarri, a newly-qualified teacher, agrees: “Tutors are there to help – not criticise. Everything, including making a mistake, is just a learning point.”

The next thing to consider is the content of the lesson. “Avoid an all-singing, all-dancing lesson – this isn’t a reflection of where you really are as a teacher,” advises Sarri. The technology is bound to fail on the day anyway.

Birrell’s advice is to “think of a small thing to do, and then make it a bit smaller”. Don’t avoid risk altogether – just confine that ambition to choosing an edgy or original lesson topic.

Some basic rules also apply. Don’t start an entirely new subject, and have resources and spare copies of your lesson plan ready – which you should also share with your support staff.

Birrell advises against setting lesson objectives that are too vast; students won’t be able to understand the causes of the second world war in 45 minutes.

A common mistake made by new teachers, according to Birrell, is to plan a lesson aimed at keeping the kids busy. They might all be engaged, but if you can’t identify the learning taking place, the tutor will notice.

Rhiannon Rees, also a newly-qualified teacher, recalls a maths lesson in which physical activities and a hot classroom threw her plans into disarray.

“Although I’d sought advice from colleagues and double checked everything, my timing was hopeless and there wasn’t an easy way to pull things back,” she says. “The children were having a great time – if only we’d had another hour.”

Of course, the occasional sweaty disaster will occur. “Be prepared to abandon your plan if necessary,” advises Sarri. “You’ll impress more by being flexible and spontaneous than by sticking to it.”

Then you’ll be able to show that you know what went wrong – demonstrating that you’re on the road to becoming a self-reflective professional.

We can’t pretend that receiving feedback is always fun. Sometimes class teachers lack the ability to make supportive and productive comments to fellow adults. “They can speak to trainees in a way they’d never dare to talk to children,” says Sarri.

Birrell suggests one reason for this potential source of conflict with class teachers. As part of a target-driven system, they’re often anxious about handing over their responsibilities to a trainee, fearful that children will fall behind academically in the hands of a novice.

Be honest and non-defensive when you hear something tough from an observer. “There’s probably a reason, and in your next observation, you get a chance to prove you can change,” says Birrell.

Rees recommends a gracious smile and taking on board the advice you get.

Observations also remind you of what you’re doing well, says Sarri. Training provides an opportunity to explore your personal teaching style – before you’re subsumed into a school with its own version of “what works”.

Remember that, ultimately, it’s the children who count. You may think you’ve aced an observation or crashed out in the first five minutes. But going forward you’ll be learning from the children – the sharpest tools in the box.


Click on the link to read The Call to Have Students Rate Their Teachers is Better than it Sounds

Click on the link to read First Work Out What a Quality Teacher is, Then Evaluate

Click on the link to read 7 Tips for Building a Better School Day

Click on the link to read Tips for Catering for the Visual Learner

Shaming Students is Never the Answer

October 7, 2014



If you really cared about the welfare of your students you would never shame them, even in order to make a point. If I became aware that a student’s profile picture was inappropriate I would deal with it thoughtfully and discreetly.

Not like this:


A 15-year-old says she was humiliated by a teacher who showed an enlarged picture of her in a bikini to more than 100 other students during a school assembly.

Children at Eggbuckland Community College in Plymouth, Devon, were shown the photograph taken from her Facebook profile to illustrate the pitfalls of posting private images online.

Unknown to the schoolgirl, who has not been named, staff had taken her swimwear photo off the internet.

It was blown up and added to a portfolio of other pictures then shown during a packed school assembly.

The shock tactic at the 1327-pupil specialist arts school left the girl distraught.

Her mother, who has now made an official complaint to Ofsted, said: ‘They took the photo from her Facebook profile – she put it on there last year.

‘They used other photos of kids from the neck up but for some reason they thought it was OK to use a picture of my daughter in her bikini.

‘Why did they have to use an image like that to make their point. Then they pointed her out in the assembly. She was really upset.

The teachers should have shown the students this instead.

Why the Call to Fine Parents for Not Reading to Their Children is Utter Stupidity

June 17, 2014


sir michael wilshaw

Every parent should be reading to their kids. We all know that. Even those parents that don’t do it know they should. But should we be fining parents that don’t?

Of course we shouldn’t!

There are two very important points to make on this insane proposal.

1. If we as teachers are any chance of helping our students reach their potential we must work with, not against, their parents. We must be offering support to them whilst also regularly communicating and encouraging them. The best outcomes take place when teachers don’t judge the habits of parents but actively work to help refocus and empower them.

2. Teachers need to stop whinging and making excuses. Our students come to us from all kind of environments and family backgrounds. In any given class a teacher must expect that some students will be well adjusted and well trained whilst others may have issues and complicated home lives. This is the norm, and it is about time we embraced it. It’s part of what makes our job challenging, yet also potentially exciting.  It is because of this reality that teachers should never assume that their set homework will come back complete or that for example, a single mother with multiple kids will have the time to read with all her children on a regular basis. But you know what? That’s OK. We teachers are well equipped to overcome any such deficiency and help that child make up from any lost ground. Whinging and excuse making only serve to prevent the teacher from being accountable for the job they are doing with their struggling students.

“Don’t blame me for Tommy’s lack of progress. His parents don’t read to him!”

That’s why the insane idea of fining parents for not reading to their children is potentially quite destructive. It encourages bad vibes between crucial stakeholders and let’s the very focus, the children, suffer whilst the teacher and parents fight it out:


Parents who do not read to their children should be fined, the chief inspector of schools suggested yesterday. 

Sir Michael Wilshaw also called for headteachers to have the power to punish parents who miss school events or allow their child’s homework to go undone. 

The head of Ofsted railed against ‘bad parents’ who were not supporting their children’s education. 

Sir Michael, 67, accused white working class families of no longer regarding doing well at school as the way to improve their family’s future. 

Instead, pupils from migrant families were outperforming white British counterparts in the classroom because many held a deep cultural belief in the value of education, he claimed. 

Talking about his own days running a school, Sir Michael told The Times: ‘I was absolutely clear with parents; if they weren’t doing a good job, I would tell them so. 

‘It’s up to headteachers to say quite clearly, “You’re a poor parent”. 

‘If parents didn’t come into school, didn’t come to parents’ evening, didn’t read with their children, didn’t ensure they did their homework, I would tell them they were bad parents. 

‘Headteachers should have the power to fine them. It’s sending the message that you are responsible for your children no matter how poor you are.’

Click on the link to read Children are Precious!

Click on the link to read Is it Ever OK to Lie to Your Kids?

Click on the link to read 9 Characteristics of a Great Teacher According to Parents

Click on the link to read 9 Secrets for Raising Happy Children

Click on the link to read Brilliant Prank Photos Show Parenting at its Worst

Click on the link to read Little Girl’s Delightful “Brake Up” Note


I Admit to Being a Badly Dressed Teacher

March 12, 2014


teacher dress

I tried to dress formally in the beginning stages of my career. I would front up to school in a shirt and tie and black leather shoes, but I just couldn’t keep it up. It felt awkward and uncomfortable and it was starting to effect my teaching.

Yes, I often teach in a pair of black casual pants, polo shirt and runners, but I feel comfortable doing so. I am not one of those teachers who sits at his desk all day and only tends to students who are prepared to trek to the teacher’s desk. I am constantly on my feet and shifting from desk to desk. Those black leather shoes were causing me to sit down too often because of the strain on my feet, and the tie simply got in the kids’ faces when I bent over to read their work.

When I made the change I felt less presentable, but rejuvenated all the same.

A report has recently condemned teachers for being too scruffy. I suppose they are in effect criticising me:

Teachers at a secondary school have been criticised in an Ofsted report for dressing too scruffily, the first in Britain to be reprimanded in a drive to raise dress standards in the classroom.

Some teachers at Acland Burghley School in Camden, North London were singled out for wearing clothes that were “too casual” and risked undermining standards, the inspectors said.

After a visit to the comprehensive, which specialises in the arts, they warned that the teachers’ failure to dress smartly could have a negative effect upon pupils’ work.

The school, which does not require pupils to wear a uniform, has been classed as “requiring improvement” and been under extra scrutiny since a full inspection in September.

In a letter to head teacher Jo Armitage, inspector Mark Phillips wrote that he was particularly disappointed by the failure of many staff to dress smartly in order to inspire pupils.

Mr Phillips, whose letter appeared after a follow-up monitoring visit, said: “Students are not required to wear school uniform. Some staff take your lead and dress in a business-like fashion.

“However, in other cases, teachers’ attire is too casual and does not promote high professional standards or expectations.”

Ofsted’s first move to improve dress standards was launched last month.

It plans to overhaul inspections of teacher training to include focussing on teachers’ clothes, conduct in the classroom and ability to control badly behaved pupils. Ofsted said it wants “professional dress and conduct” in the classroom.

The report on Acland Burghley School also criticised the way that students answer back and use bad language.

Ms Armitage has already announced she is standing down in August and governors are currently recruiting for a new head teacher.


Click on the link to read How Should Teachers Dress?

Click on the link to read Teachers in Uniform?

Click on the link to read If Schools Care Then They Must Prove It

Click on the link to read Kids as Young as 3 are Getting Tutors


I am a Proud Defender of the Mixed-Ability Classroom

September 20, 2012

I hate labels, especially labels given to kids. Too often I have seen a child brandished as a “low ability” student prove everybody wrong. The beauty about mixed ability classrooms is that the group in question isn’t selected based on a label. This allows the students to be appreciated for who they are instead of what they know. This also provides more confident students with the fantastic opportunity of helping their less confident counterparts during whole class and grouped work.

But mixed ability classrooms forces teachers to accommodate for the learning needs of each student and they would therefore have to differentiate the curriculum? Of course we would! That’s our job!

It seems like others do not share my beliefs:

Bright pupils are losing out due to the ‘curse’ of mixed-ability classes, the head of Ofsted warned yesterday.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said thousands were failing to reach their full potential due to poor teaching methods.

Inspectors will now be critical of schools that do not differentiate between high and low achievers.

This could lead to schools falling into the new category of ‘requires improvement’ (which replaces the old ‘satisfactory’ description), or even being labelled ‘inadequate’.

Statistics published following a  Parliamentary question show that  55 per cent of lessons in English state secondary schools last year involved children with different academic needs.

Ofsted cannot force schools to adopt setting – grouping pupils according to their academic ability in single subjects – or streaming, where ability groups cover most or all subjects.

However, Sir Michael’s intervention is likely to make headteachers rethink their practice of mixed ability classes for fear of being marked down in future inspections.

Click on the link to read The Difficulties of Parenting a Special Needs Child

Click on the link to read Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

Click on the link to read Would You Notice if Your Child Was a Bully?

Click on the link to read Labelling Children is Extremely Harmful

Click on the link to read The Insanity of Modern Educational Thinking

It is Never Alright to Put Down Your Students!

May 29, 2012

There is simply no excuse for denigrating your students. Whether they are unruly or not is completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how much they fidget, answer back, disturb or waste time, there is no place for a teacher to put down his/her students.

Teachers found breaking that rule repeatedly (or at least more than once), should be forced to tender their resignations. No school or classroom of students deserves such a teacher. Teachers have to wake up to the fact that if they choose to teach children, that’s exactly what they are going to be faced with – a room full of children. Children misbehave. That is reality.

If teachers can’t handle the constant disturbances and the rudeness, they have options:

1, Seek the support of their Principal, colleagues or even the parents of the unruly children.

2. Change their style of teaching (because whatever they are doing quite clearly isn’t working).

3. Find a different job.

I fear it may be too late for Mr. Griffin to take option one or two, and for good reason:

A primary school teacher branded his pupils ‘pests, idiots, clowns and buffoons’ a disciplinary panel heard yesterday.

Roger Griffin, 66, denied that the terms were derogatory and insisted that he had used ‘apt and appropriate language’ to describe the eight and nine-year-old pupils who he also labelled ‘miscreants’.

The now-retired teacher also stands accused of playing piano in the school hall for an entire day after he was not asked to come to work during an Ofsted inspection at Beechview School in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

A panel heard that Mr Griffin’s behaviour at the school was called in to question by acting assistant head Beatriz Melero, who had been called in as a trouble-shooter to boost the ailing primary’s fortunes after the previous headteacher was absent on a long-term basis.

She told the hearing that Mr Griffin – who worked at the school for nine years – had been ‘unduly punitive’ when he put three children in detention and listed the reason as ‘fidgeting’.

Representing himself at a Teaching Agency conduct hearing held in Coventry, West Midlands, Mr Griffin told a disciplinary panel that his conduct had been ‘appropriate’.

Presenting Officer Melinka Berridge said he had penned a letter to the school after complaints were made about his language towards children.

It read: ‘Persistent miscreants who act like delinquents can expect to be treated as such.

‘If they don’t like being called idiots, fools, clowns, buffoons or any similar epithet, there is a very simple solution: don’t act like one.’

Mr Griffin later told the hearing he had only used the terms in reference to ‘the small minority who are disturbing the learning opportunities of everybody else.’

Mr Griffin said one allegation against him, that he shouted at a young boy and called him an ‘idiot’, omitted to mention that the boy had been ‘cavorting’ around his classroom for some time before he reprimanded him.

He said: ‘How do you describe that sort of behaviour without using that sort of language? There is no other way, is there?’

Mr Griffin faces two charges of serious misconduct towards staff and pupils between December 2007 and May 2008.

He is also accused of disregarding directions given to him by acting head Miss Melero, and for failing to follow the National Curriculum in his music lessons.

But Mr Griffin said it was ‘total rubbish’ that his lessons did not adhere to the National Curriculum but he was ‘very pleased’ to admit that he had not used Qualifications and Curriculums Authority (QCA) work schemes when planning lessons because they contained a mistake.

He said: ‘I made it quite clear that I never will follow the QCA schemes of work as they contain an error and I will not teach an error.

He went on to claim that work schemes he devised himself were superior to those created by the national body.

‘My scheme of work is much better than the QCA scheme of work,’ he said. ‘My work supports the National Curriculum to levels that by itself the National Curriculum can’t reach.’

Children Exposed to Poor Maths Teachers: Ofsted

May 22, 2012

I am not particularly surprised by the finding that bright students, in particular, are being failed by poor maths instruction. It’s been my experience that most teachers come from a strictly humanities (i.e. English, Politics, History) background. These teachers often shirk maths and science as it isn’t their forte.

In a damning report, the watchdog warned that the scale of underachievement at school was a “cause of national concern” that risks robbing the country of well-qualified mathematicians, scientists and engineers.

It said that many of the most gifted children were “insufficiently challenged” at primary and secondary level after being set the same work as mid-ranking classmates.

Inspectors insisted that too much teaching focused on the use of “disconnected facts and methods” that pupils were expected to memorise and replicate without any attempt to solve complex problems in their heads.

Large numbers of pupils are also being pushed into sitting maths GCSEs a year early – forcing schools to completely ignore many of the most demanding algebra topics, it was revealed.

In a highly-critical conclusion, Ofsted said that teaching was not good enough in almost half of English state schools, with almost no improvements being made in the last four years.

I realise that what I am writing is a gross generalisation, but I believe that maths is generally taught in a very abstract and monotonous way. No wonder the students are not benefitting from maths instruction at the primary level. Traditional maths teaching involves worksheets, a mindless array of algorithms and plenty of other rote styled goodies.

The tragedy of it all is that maths can be taught in a completely different way. I find the basic skills of maths the most refreshing and creatively exciting subject to teach. The fact that maths is a composite of everyday skills means it translates wonderfully to problem solving activities.

The Only Ones Who Should Be Named and Shamed are the Policy Makers

January 22, 2012

Nick Gibb wants to remove incentives to schools that are protecting their league table ranking at the expense of extending bright students.

Secondary schools that fail to push bright children will be named and shamed in a bid to prevent comprehensives from manipulating the league table rankings, the schools minister has said.

Nick Gibb said he wanted to remove the incentive for schools to play the system by focusing only on pupils whose grades will affect their league table ranking.

Gibb said the tables would include additional information to expose schools who fail to push bright students who were capable of performing even better if they had better teaching.

In the reformed league tables, which will be published for the first time next week, parents will be able to compare schools based on the amount of progress made by the top pupils between 11 and 16.

“The way school league tables have evolved over the past two decades can encourage a degree of ‘gaming’ by some weaker schools, desperate to keep above the standard that would trigger intervention by Ofsted or the Department for Education,” Gibb writes in Saturday’s Telelgraph.

“But the purpose of performance tables must be to incentivise schools to raise standards and to enable parents to make informed decisions when choosing a school.”

The reason why schools don’t invest more time into bright students is not because they don’t care. It is because the system was set up to force schools to protect their ranking. It’s these blasted rankings that taint education. Teaching and learning is not a game. It shouldn’t come by way of fear or shaming, but through sound methods and a positive approach,

Policy makers should be named and shamed for changing the landscape of education. No industry is under so much pressure, with so little real reward. Teaching under a cloud of negativity poorly impacts staff and students.

Perhaps there will be more attention to brighter students as a result of these measures. But in the end, nobody wins from negative tactics and a data driven school system.

The Reason Why New Teachers Often Struggle

October 31, 2011

Ofsted is wrong. Teacher training doesn’t need to be tougher, it needs to be smarter. The reason why our new teachers find it so hard is not because they cruised through their training but because their training didn’t prepare them for the classroom.

Tougher teacher training is not going to achieve anything:

Tougher training should be given to teachers in a bid to raise standards in the classroom, an education watchdog has proposed.

The guidelines, drawn up by Ofsted and published on Monday, would see a greater emphasis on teachers’ behavioural management and ability to teach pupils to read, including those with special educational needs.

The ways in which trainee teachers are currently assessed would also change; inspectors will rate trainees’ effectiveness in few categories but according to a tougher criteria. The inspection will include an increased focus on trainees’ subject knowledge and the quality of training.

My University course was as tough as they come, but it was too steeped in the theoretical.  I needed far more exposure to classrooms than 5 weeks in year one and 9 in the second and final year of my degree.  I needed to see how different teachers and different schools operated. I needed to be in touch with resources that was shown to work and methods that I could employ later on.

Instead, I was treated to mindless theory and useless advice.  It was an extremely tough course, but one that offered me precious little in terms of real experience and practical insight.

What About Parents that Bully Teachers Online?

October 25, 2011

Unfortunately, teachers and Facebook aren’t always a match made in heaven.  Whilst the vast majority of teachers on Facebook are responsible and mature enough to stay out of trouble, there’s always a news story popping up about tasteless comments a teacher made against students or minority groups.  This month it is Viki Knox, a Special Education teacher who was rightly condemned for her anti-gay comments on Facebook.

The media storm resulting from the Knox case and others like it serve as a timely reminder to teachers on Facebook that they must be extremely careful not to offend (something which shouldn’t be hard to do).

But what about the myriad of incidents of parents and students ganging up on and bullying teachers?

More than one in seven teachers has been the victim of cyberbullying by pupils or parents, and almost half know a colleague who has been targeted, according to a survey published today.

Students have set up “hate” groups on social networking sites calling for specific teachers to be sacked and have even created fake profiles in their names containing defamatory information.

Schools must make clear to pupils that such behaviour will lead to punishment, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said.

Schools seem to be increasingly soft on parents that bully teachers.  Turning a blind-eye to Facebook campaigns and insulting comments against teachers is not acceptable.  Teachers so often feel isolated and powerless against taunts from parents.

Who do they turn to for support?

When schools claim to have a “zero tolerance for bullying”, they ought to include bullying of teachers by parents.  Any parent caught bullying a teacher online should be subjected to the same penalty as a teacher.  They should be told to take their child and find another school.

If you think that’s harsh, try being a bullied teacher.  I’m glad I’ve never been bullied, because I guarantee you, it’s not easy!

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