Why not be done by as you should do

An art critic doesn’t necessarily need to be a great artist, and as we’ve seen all too often during the world cup campaign, the best players do not necessarily make either the best coaches or pundits. Thus went my reasoning as I tried to justify the tedious after school staff meeting we were subjected to by an Ofsted ‘lead inspector’ last week. However, an art critic is not trying to create a work of art; a football pundit is not playing the game. Our Ofsted inspector was, however, trying to teach us something. Perhaps he is excellent at his inspection role, so does it matter that, as a teacher/presenter, he either failed to come close to the standards he was exhorting us to achieve, or perhaps hadn’t even bothered to try?

“The main focus for the meeting”, we were told beforehand, “will be ‘Securing Outstanding’. The lead inspector’s brief was: “ helping us to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ learning and teaching by : (i) raising awareness about the criteria; (ii) deepening our understanding of ‘outstanding delivery’.”

He began by telling us about how, when inspecting, the emphasis is now more on looking at the learning than the teaching, and that therefore rather than the traditional mode of sitting at the back with a clipboard, he now often adopts the position of the teacher and looks at the actions and reactions of the students. I wondered what he would think of his own performance if he were able to look out at the sea of bored and disengaged faces in front of him. He committed the cardinal presentation errors: a series of PowerPoint slides which were too text heavy, with much of his delivery consisting of reading content either directly from the slides, or from the handouts we had been given. Vocal delivery was flat and pretty monotonous. We had been told that he had asked “if colleagues can come prepared with questions as he wants the session to be as interactive as possible.” If your idea of being as interactive as possible is hoping that people will ask questions, you’re going to struggle do much more than lecture. So he didn’t do much more than lecture. There was a desultory exercise part way through, involving looking at a couple of Ofsted ‘quality of teaching’ reports and guessing what grade they had been given.

But enough of the dismal delivery. Did I learn anything?

I can’t remember. So I guess the answer’s ‘no’

But I was deeply dejected by the mechanistic approach to judging teaching that seems to mean that if you’ve got engaged kids you can be ‘outstanding’ even if the teaching actually isn’t, but even the most brilliant teaching can’t be judged ‘outstanding’ if the students aren’t up to scratch.

(So the system is skewed in favour of schools like ours, which is clearly unfair.