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Confirmed. The new orthodoxy at Ofsted is that there is no orthodoxy.

Bill Watkin, Operational Director SSAT, writes…

The latest guidelines for inspectors, published in the last few days, reassert the principle that there is not just one way of doing things right in the classroom. Anything goes, as long as it works.

These guidelines have significant implications for our approaches to pedagogy, differentiation, lesson planning and lesson observation judgements. Although the principles have already been in place since earlier this academic year, there is a view that some inspectors on the ground have not always applied them in practice. So some fundamental messages have now been reinforced.

These messages are entirely consistent with the principles of the new national curriculum and with the new assessment and qualification arrangements.

The new national curriculum identifies the body of knowledge that learners are expected to know by the end of each key stage. It is up to the school to design the curriculum journey that will take learners to the end point. It does not matter how you get there, as long as you get there.

The new assessment arrangements, with terminal examinations as the default method of assessment, will require learners to demonstrate their knowledge, from memory, of the key facts listed in the national curriculum or the examination syllabus.

Both curriculum and assessment are influenced by the work of Professor ED Hirsch and his Core Knowledge Sequence, emphasising the importance of the facts and content that learners should acquire.

The dominant idea of teacher as sage on the stage, rather than guide on the side, the teacher as expert in the field imparting subject content in a didactic style, rather than facilitator of active and independent learning, has resurfaced.

Inspectors will no longer be marking down lessons in which they observe teachers talking from the front to a class of passively learning students. Teachers will not be marked down if their lesson does not follow a particular structure, or if they do not have a variety of activity, or if every child’s needs are not individually met.

As long as the children are learning, as long as progress is evident, as long as it works . . . it’s fine.

Ofsted guidance, January 2014 . . . some headlines:

  • Teachers will no longer be judged on their teaching styles or have to match lessons to the needs of individual pupils to achieve top grades.
  • Inspectors should also not automatically criticise teachers for talking too much or mark them down if they do not lay on a range of different activities in the lessons.
  • Inspectors must not give the impression that Ofsted favours a particular teaching style…they should not criticise teacher talk for being overlong or bemoan a lack of opportunity for different activities in lessons unless there is unequivocal evidence that this is slowing learning over time.
  • Inspectors should not necessarily expect that all work in all lessons is always matched to the specific needs of each individual. Do not expect to see ‘independent learning’ in all lessons and do not make the assumption that this is always necessary or desirable.
  • On occasions, pupils are rightly passive rather than active recipients of learning. Do not criticise ‘passivity’ as a matter of course and certainly not unless it is evidently stopping pupils from learning new knowledge or gaining skills and understanding.
  • Inspectors should not focus on lesson structure at the expense of its content or the wide range of other evidence about how well children are learning in the school.
  • No-notice visits to schools where behaviour has been identified as a particular concern. Inspectors will also focus more on culture and behaviour when inspecting schools.

SSAT offers a range of support to help you understand and prepare for the changes coming in 2014:

Making sense of change: the facts, the proposals & the implications of recent developments in education policy
Twilight seminars in schools around the country

Principled curriculum design workshops
Principled assessment design workshops with Dylan Wiliam
More information on these events will be available very soon.

Redesigning Schooling – 3: Principled curriculum design by Dylan Wiliam

Coming soon – Redesigning Schooling – 8: Principled assessment design by Dylan Wiliam

September 2013 Ofsted framework briefing pack
The SSAT guide to Ofsted success

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