Ofsted – Down with traditional teaching!

We all know that teaching styles alter in time due to the different requirements and needs that our children change with developments of technology amongst other situations. But there are some methods that have transcended the boundaries of time.

Well not according to Ofsted. In fact, according to a report from thinktank Civitas, Ofsted is actually penalising teachers who use the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ style of teaching. This conclusion came from their analysis of 260 Ofsted reports, which found what they describe as ‘trendy’ child led learning and ‘jazzy lessons’ taking precedence over the traditional methods.

Sir Michael Wilshaw himself has said before that it is clear for the teachers for them to decide how they teach, which means that his inspectors have no right to take preference to a certain style of teaching over another.

But the report found teachers were “accustomed to putting on ‘jazzy’ lessons, replete with group work, role play and active learning in order to fulfil what has become widely acknowledged as the ‘Ofsted style'”.

The study for the think tank, by Robert Peal, a history teacher and education research fellow, is based on an analysis of two sets of reports. The first 130 reports, on secondary schools inspected between September 10 and October 13 last year, showed clear evidence of bias, Civitas claims.

While more than half (52%) showed a preference for lessons in which pupils learned independently from teacher instruction, 42% showed a preference for group work, the study says. And 18% criticised teachers for talking too much.

The second set of 130 reports was produced from inspections carried out after new guidance on how to assess teaching quality was issued earlier this year.

Sir Michael wrote to inspectors in January saying: “Please, please, please think carefully before criticising a lesson because it doesn’t conform to a particular view of how children should be taught.”

Although in the second batch of reports the percentage showing a preference for child-centred learning fell to 38%, the report says the change in the language of the reports was “superficial”.

And it claims lead inspectors were given a list of “banned phrases” bemoaning the lack of “trendy teaching methods”. It adds that some reports were edited after publication “to expunge examples of child-centred language”.

“Such a shallow approach to combating the preferred Ofsted style of teaching relies on changing the language of the reports, but allowing the fundamental judgement to remain the same,” the report says. It goes on to call for the removal of Ofsted’s power to grade the quality of teaching so that schools have the “professional autonomy to focus on what teaching methods work best”.

An Ofsted spokesman said: “The arguments put forward in this report are largely reheated ones. What matters to Ofsted is what matters to parents – ensuring that schools are delivering the best possible education for their children. As HM chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has repeatedly made clear, Ofsted does not have a preferred teaching style. It is up to the classroom teacher to determine how they should teach.”

I’m sorry Ofsted, but you are talking complete and utter trash. I’ve been on the front line in classrooms during an Ofsted inspection, and I was told to alter the usual approach I use just to please the Ofsted inspector coming in. I should say at this point that I was a TA for the class teacher. I also noticed the class teacher wasn’t teaching in the same way that they usually taught. This culture of teaching ‘the Ofsted style’ definitely exists, and if you don’t recognise this then I’m afraid you have about as clear a vision as I do in the dark (I used to sleepwalk into walls as a kid). I certainly would never use some of my methods during Ofsted because I would have to include technology in. Not all of my lessons use technology, not just because I’m not it’s biggest fan, but because I don’t want to use technology for using it’s sake. If my lesson could not be done without the technology, fine I’ll use it. But if it’s not necessary I don’t want to replace something that is perfectly fine.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Ofsted, I don’t really think it’s fit for purpose, and if I’m brutally honest, I would like to see it scrapped, and I’m sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that. To find a report that is using a hint of bias towards certain teaching styles only adds another nail into the Ofsted coffin for me.

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