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How We Observe Lessons


Ofsted have published a new framework for inspections, active since September 2013 and updated in July 2014 (click here).   It refocuses inspectors on the quality of teaching in the classroom.  In order to prepare staff for this new framework, we undertook training looking at how an inspector approaches a lesson observation whilst doing a little myth busting along the way.  The TES has written a good article on this subject which can be read by clicking here. Ofsted have also released further guidance on this which can be read here.

The key aspects for teachers to note under the new framework are that:

  • Inspectors are looking to determine learner progress over time and this will involve talking to students and examining progress in books alongside what is observed in a lesson.
  • All groups of students must be shown to be making good progress (including Free School Meals, Gifted & Talented and Special Educational Needs).
  • That assessment is used effectively to check progress and intervene i.e. that teachers adapt to what assessment is telling them. Do students respond and improve as a result of teacher intervention e.g. if targets are given is there evidence that students improve as a result. If additional support is given to a student what impact has it had?

However, inspectors recognise that the teaching style adopted is for the teacher to determine, what is important is whether the students make progress.  In some lessons this will mean that teacher-led work is appropriate, in others that students will be working independently.

Inspectors will make a judgement regarding the success of the teacher’s behaviour management strategies to accelerate the progress students make.  It has been noted by Ofsted that, in many lessons, behaviour is often judged one grade higher; observers need to establish whether the behaviour observed in a lesson is typical by, for example, talking to groups of students and the quality of work produced in books over time.

In order for a lesson to achieve at least a Good grade, all groups of students must be making at least Good progress.  If any group of students is not, the lesson will be graded as Requires Improvement.

The full presentation from the training can be found here: OFSTED Training Jan 2014. This was updated in 2014 to reflect the new framework: Staff Ofsted lesson Sept 2014.

Ofsted’s new School Inspection Handbook is here:

The evidence forms Ofsted use to record lesson observations are here:

The following clip is worth a watch it is the lead from the expert panel who led on the idea of removing levels:

The key points are:

  • Levels are unreliable, misrepresent student progress and parents often don’t understand what they mean;
  • Assessment should be rich and probing – good q+a in class, well-chosen exam questions (e.g. using modified GCSE questions at KS3) that check and probe how much a student understands. The use of teacher intervention and catch-up with those students who don’t understand concepts. Tracking to demonstrate impact of this.

Finally ..

We observed a lesson and completed an evidence form in order to practise judging a lesson, the secondary one we used is below. What grade would you award?

The primary lesson we observed is below and caused a great deal of debate regarding the grade it would be awarded from delegates. It is important to remember when judging a lesson that it is the progress that the pupils make over time, rather than based on their initial starting points or attainment. Inspectors will also not make a judgement regarding the activities chosen or the approach taken by the teacher only whether the lesson is effective in improving pupils understanding. Michael Wilshaw has written to inspectors outlining his expectations in this regards, please click here. What judgement would you award?


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