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Inspection of teaching, learning and assessment
- 1 The quality of teaching, learning and assessment: graded judgement
- 2 Criteria for assessing teaching, learning and assessment
- 3 Observing teaching, learning and assessment
- 4 Inspecting the impact of literacy and teaching of mathematics
- 5 Schools with a high proportion of NQTs
- 6 Schools with teachers undergoing capability procedures
- 7 Assessment systems: Ofsted criteria
- 2 videos
- 4 external links
The quality of teaching, learning and assessment: graded judgement
Paragraph 126 of the School Inspection Handbook states that one of the key judgements made during inspection is on the ‘quality of teaching, learning and assessment’.
The handbook can be downloaded from the following page:
Ofsted does not grade individual lessons
Pages 10-12 of the inspection handbook outline additional ‘clarification for schools’ surrounding inspection. This says that:
Ofsted does not award a grade for the quality of teaching or outcomes in the individual lessons visited. It does not grade individual lessons. It does not expect schools to use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to grade teaching or individual lessons.
More information on the use of lesson observations can be found in section 3 of this article.
Ofsted does not award a grade for the quality of teaching or outcomes in the individual lessons visited
The handbook also explains that Ofsted does not:
- Require schools to provide lesson plans to inspectors
- Expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils' books or folders
- Expect to see a particular frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback (though this should be consistent with the school’s assessment policy)
Grade descriptors for the quality of teaching
Another article from The Key looks at the grade descriptors for each area of judgement, including the quality of teaching, learning and assessment. It sets out the grade descriptors in a KeyDoc, which you can download from the article.
Developing teaching and learning
Speaking at our school inspection conference in February 2015, Dame Joan McVittie set out some of the strategies used at her school to develop teaching and learning. Although this was under the previous inspection framework, the advice may still be useful to consider.
Joan is the headteacher at Woodside High School in Haringey, which was rated 'outstanding' in its last Ofsted inspection. To enlarge the video, click on the icon in the bottom right-hand corner.
Criteria for assessing teaching, learning and assessment
Paragraph 155 of the handbook says that inspectors will evaluate a range of factors when making a judgement on the effectiveness of teaching, learning and assessment. These include the extent to which:
- The teachers’ standards are being met
- Teachers and other staff have consistently high expectations of what each pupil can achieve, including most able and disadvantaged pupils
- Teachers and other staff have a secure understanding of the age group they are working with and have relevant subject knowledge that is detailed and communicated well to pupils
- Assessment information is gathered from looking at what pupils already know, understand and can do, and is informed by their parents/previous providers as appropriate in the early years
- Assessment information is used to plan appropriate teaching and learning strategies, including to identify pupils who are falling behind in their learning or who need additional support, enabling pupils to make good progress and achieve well
Observing teaching, learning and assessment
Paragraphs 64-66 of the inspection handbook set out how inspectors will assess teaching, learning and assessment. It says that inspectors will visit lessons, considering this evidence alongside documentary evidence and views from leaders, governors, staff, pupils and parents. They will also observe extra-curricular activities.
Observations will “seek to cover as wide a range of subjects, key stages and ability groups as possible”
The handbook says that the lead inspector will agree the lesson observation strategy with the headteacher and ensure senior leaders and inspectors understand the rationale. Observations will “seek to cover as wide a range of subjects, key stages and ability groups as possible”. The school will not normally be informed in advance which classes will be visited.
Inspectors may engage in:
- Short visits to a number of lessons, spending a few minutes in each
- Short observations of small group teaching
- Observing learning in lessons, during which they may observe activities, talk with pupils about their work and scrutinise pupils’ work
- Joining a class or specific group of pupils as they go from lesson to lesson, to assess their experience of a school day or part of a school day. In this way, the experience, progress and learning of these pupils can be judged within the context of other pupils’ experience, such as their behaviour, their attitudes to learning and their access to the curriculum
- Joint observations of teaching and learning carried out with the headteacher and/or senior staff
Paragraphs 69-71 explain the process for joint lesson observations between the lead inspector and headteacher (or a senior member of staff). After the observation they must discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson observed, and any differences between the inspector's analysis and headteacher's analysis of the observation should be discussed.
Evidence gathered from Ofsted lesson observations ... must not be used as evidence in capability or disciplinary proceedings, or for the purposes of performance management
It adds that the headteacher should feed back to the observed teacher after the lesson, and the inspector should take note of this feedback to inform the evidence of professional development and performance management at the school.
Observations should not inform performance management
Paragraph 59 of the handbook clarifies that any evidence gathered from Ofsted lesson observations, joint or otherwise, must not be used as evidence in capability or disciplinary proceedings, or for the purposes of performance management.
Other evidence used by inspectors
Paragraph 156 explains that inspectors will use lesson observations, discussions with pupils about their work, scrutiny of pupils' work and consider how well leaders are “securing continual improvements in teaching”. These observations will be supplemented by evidence used by inspectors to evaluate teachers' and support assistants’ impact on pupil progress.
Paragraph 157 outlines inspectors’ other considerations, such as:
- Leaders’ evaluations of teaching and its impact on learning
- How information at transition points between schools is used effectively so that teachers plan to meet pupils’ needs in all lessons from the outset, particularly between the early years and Key Stage (KS) 1 and between KS2 and KS3
- Whether work in all year groups, particularly in KS3, is demanding enough for all pupils
- Information from discussions about teaching, learning and assessment with teachers, teaching assistants and other staff
Inspecting the impact of literacy and teaching of mathematics
Paragraphs 159-162 of the handbook explain how the teaching of literacy and mathematics will be inspected. It says:
Inspectors will consider the impact of the teaching of literacy and the outcomes across the range of the school’s provision. They will consider the extent to which the school intervenes to provide support for improving pupils’ literacy, especially those pupils at risk of underachieving.
The handbook says that during the inspection of infant, junior, primary and middle schools (and on some occasions, lower attaining pupils in years 7 and 8 in secondary schools), inspectors must listen to pupils read, with a particular focus on lower attaining pupils. This is to assess how effectively the school is teaching reading and whether pupils are “equipped with the phonic strategies needed to tackle unfamiliar words”.
Schools with a high proportion of NQTs
A school leader asked us whether having a high proportion of newly qualified teachers (NQTs) on the teaching staff would affect the judgement of the school's quality of teaching.
The proportion of NQTs would not impact the judgement on the quality of teaching
We put this question to David Driscoll, who is one of our associate education experts. He said that the proportion of NQTs would not affect the judgement on the quality of teaching. An NQT will be considered in the 'quality of teaching' judgement in the same way as all other teachers.
In paragraph 81, the handbook says that inspectors should conduct a specific meeting with NQTs and trainees, where discussions may include assessing the effectiveness of induction and mentoring arrangements.
Schools with teachers undergoing capability procedures
A school leader asked us whether a school that has a teacher undergoing capability procedures could still receive an 'outstanding' rating from Ofsted.
Another of our associate education experts, David Roche, explained that schools may still receive an 'outstanding' rating in these circumstances.
He said that Ofsted does not judge the quality of individual teachers, but instead takes an overall view of the quality of teaching in a school. If the school has one or more teachers who are undergoing capability procedures, inspectors will look at how the school is managing this.
If the school has ... teachers who are undergoing capability procedures, inspectors will look at how the school is managing this
For instance, he told us that Ofsted inspectors might ask questions such as:
- How did you establish that the competence of the teacher was in question?
- What actions have you taken to improve that teacher's performance?
- What has the impact of any additional training and support been? How do you know?
He added that inspectors will expect to see that capability procedures were undertaken in a timely and decisive manner.
Another article from The Key looks at examples of capability procedures:
Assessment systems: Ofsted criteria
Paragraph 158 of Ofsted’s inspection handbook explains that Ofsted does not expect to see any particular system of assessment in place. It explains how inspectors will evaluate the accuracy and impact of assessment at the school. It says they will consider how well:
Ofsted does not expect to see any particular system of assessment in place
- Teachers use any assessment for establishing pupils’ starting points, teacher assessment and testing to modify teaching so that pupils achieve their potential by the end of a year or key stage
- Assessment draws on a range of evidence of what pupils know, understand and can do across the curriculum
- Teachers make consistent judgements about pupils’ progress and attainment, for example within a subject, across a year group and between year groups
Commission on assessment without levels
Pages 35-38 of the final report from the commission on assessment without levels looks at Ofsted's contribution to the report to clarify its position on assessment.
Sean Harford, Ofsted's national director for schools, summarises this position in a video from the Department for Education, below.
Use of levels: Ofsted judgements
A school leader asked us whether a school continuing to use levels would be viewed negatively by inspectors.
Paragraph 178 of the handbook says:
When considering the school’s records for the progress of current pupils, inspectors will recognise that schools are at different points in their move towards adopting a system of assessment without National Curriculum levels.
We spoke to two of our associate education experts, David New and Jeremy Bird, for further guidance.
Both reiterated that Ofsted does not have a preferred assessment system, and therefore does not explicitly outline that schools should not use levels. However, schools should be able to demonstrate that they are moving towards an assessment system that reflects the new National Curriculum.
Jeremy advised that as the new National Curriculum is more challenging, the grade descriptors for National Curriculum levels may not reflect the same depth required under the new curriculum, and schools should consider this if still incorporating levels.
David added that if schools are including levels within their assessment system, they need to show that the method of assessment is contributing towards raising standards. Both said that, ultimately, it is up to the school to demonstrate to inspectors that the speed at which they are transitioning away from levels is best suited to them, and shows a good understanding of the progress pupils are making.
Sources and further reading
David Driscoll is an independent consultant and a senior partner with an education consultancy. He has considerable experience of supporting schools to analyse their data to improve achievement, teaching and leadership.
David Roche is a former headteacher currently working as an education consultant and school improvement partner.
Jeremy Bird has extensive experience of primary headship. He has also worked with local authorities and published guidance for new and aspiring headteachers and senior leaders.
David New, an education consultant, was the headteacher of a large secondary school for nine years. He has particular expertise in lettings, staffing, academy conversion and the secondary curriculum.
Ofsted has produced a good practice example of how teaching was improved at a primary school through high-quality leadership. Although produced under the previous framework, it may still be useful when considering the quality of teaching in your school.
This article was updated in response to a question from a deputy headteacher at a large rural secondary school in the south east.
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