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Dear Stephen. Negative feedback from Governors' lesson observation.

Discussion in 'Governors' started by kate2521, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. kate2521

    kate2521 New commenter

    2 Governors recently watched our dept teaching - I think they may have observed others too. We were told categorically that there would be no feedback and no grading, and that it wasn't an observation as such.
    I was told in my mid-year Performance Management meeting today that the Governors had told SLT they "did not like my lesson". The reasons were not anything too bad - minor behaviour issues (out of character and I dealt with them) and they thought I could have done what I was doing in an ordinary classroom (I was in an ICT room). I think one of them is an ex-Headteacher and the other possible an ex-teacher too, so they obviously have some classroom experience.
    I don't feel this should have happened, and don't feel that it should be mentioned in a PM meeting, as it's not relevant. Could you give me some guidance? I am going to discuss this with the SLT member who organised their visit but wanted to ask for your advice in the meantime. Thank you.

     
  2. kate2521

    kate2521 New commenter

    2 Governors recently watched our dept teaching - I think they may have observed others too. We were told categorically that there would be no feedback and no grading, and that it wasn't an observation as such.
    I was told in my mid-year Performance Management meeting today that the Governors had told SLT they "did not like my lesson". The reasons were not anything too bad - minor behaviour issues (out of character and I dealt with them) and they thought I could have done what I was doing in an ordinary classroom (I was in an ICT room). I think one of them is an ex-Headteacher and the other possible an ex-teacher too, so they obviously have some classroom experience.
    I don't feel this should have happened, and don't feel that it should be mentioned in a PM meeting, as it's not relevant. Could you give me some guidance? I am going to discuss this with the SLT member who organised their visit but wanted to ask for your advice in the meantime. Thank you.

     
  3. keepthespirit

    keepthespirit New commenter

    I admit I do not know all the rules and regulations surrounding this, but my instinct is that it is wrong. Although I was a head teacher for 15 years and then 8 years working in teacher training I certainly would not consider it my role to make any negative comments on a teacher's performance. That, for me, is for practising professionals in the school to evaluate. Our role is to be strategic and look at how well things are managed to ensure high standards.
     
  4. R13

    R13 Occasional commenter

    We all know Governors are in no position to evaluate teaching by observing it themselves . . .so I would also wish to ask why they were observing lessons in the first place.
    Challenge the views passed onto you from your Line Manager and let them know you feel obliged to inform your union of this breach of practice
     
  5. kate2521

    kate2521 New commenter

    Thank you for your replies. I will check what the purpose of their visit was, talk to my union and go back to my Line Manager.
     
  6. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    We have an ex headteacher and an ex deputy headteacher and I would never sanction these two or any governor being involved in classroom observations. The only exception might be on say an SLT recruitment process.
    Governors should not be involved in the managment of the school only the strategy. Your school should have a clearly laid down policy for classroom observations and your unions may have been involved in giving it the once over. Have you checked your lesson/classroom observation policy to see if it has been followed?
    We involve our governors for many other matters in school time and in class and involve them in the life of the school as much as possible as many of them have full time jobs elsewhere but this is definitely a no no for me. It's a job for the paid professionals apart from the fact that it is likely to rustle feathers unnecessarily!


     
  7. teacha

    teacha Occasional commenter

    I have the answer and am going to PM you.


     
  8. The NGA is clear that while governor visits to school (including classroom visits) can be a useful mechanism for getting to know the school - these are not ‘lesson observations' which are the responsibility of the senior leadership team within the school. Governors should not be visiting the school to make judgements on the quality of teaching and learning. Indeed the Department for Education's website says "It is important that governors remember the purpose of governor visits is not to assess the quality of teaching provision"
    Stephen Adamson
     
  9. kate2521

    kate2521 New commenter

    Thank you for the replies.
     
  10. Just thought I'd add some thoughts on this as a chair of governors, since this is a topic about which I have had some concerns. We feel we have had a very clear steer that governors should spend time in the classroom, but there seems to be some lack of clarity on what exactly they should do when they get there. I think you have the position absolutely correct, at least according to the DfE website:



    http://www.education.gov.uk/a0056717/governor-visits-to-the-school



    "It is important that governors remember the purpose of governor visits is not to assess the quality of teaching provision or to pursue issues that relate to the day-to-day management of the school other than as agreed with the headteacher or SMT."



    The waters are muddied somewhat by some inspection reports I have read where the inspection team commend or criticize governors on whether or not they have had the training to recognise good teaching. I'm not sure why governors would need that - that is what the SMT is for surely?



    I did accompany our headteacher for a lesson observation, and the approach we took was that he was there to observe the lesson, and I was there to observe him. Afterwards, he took me through the lesson evaluation proforma that he used, and explained how he arrived at the judgements he did. This I felt was a valid exercise, since I can as a result attest at least to some degree of the rigour and impartiality of the lesson observation process he follows, and it also might help to inform the next round of HT performance management. While I could understand his reasoning for the judgements he passed on particular aspects of the lesson, I would feel it inappropriate to even attempt to arrive at those judgements myself - I'm just not qualified.



    I guess a difficulty arises with governors who themselves do have experience of teaching. It struck me as one of those areas where governors have to be clear about their role. I do feel there is increased pressure and expectation of governors actually going into the classroom where possible to improve their knowledge of the school, but I would agree that a line has been crossed in the case you describe.



    One of the things I got out of my recent experiences is, even with quite an effective proforma for lesson observations, there is inevitably a significant level of subjectivity in the process, which is backed up by accounts of two qualified people observing the same lesson, and one coming out with "requires improvement" and the other as "outstanding".
     
  11. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Star commenter

    You make some very valid points there, tony.
     
  12. stonerose

    stonerose Occasional commenter

    Hello Kate
    There are some very thoughtful comments written here on this subject and hopefully I can add to them. However I am finding that I have many questions about these 'visits' or so-called observations, that weren't observations, but then turned out to be observations after all. What a muddle!
    Do you have anything written down about what was the purpose and scope of this observation? Was it given to you?
    What were the objectives? Were they shared with the staff to be observed before hand? (From what you said clearly not! Did anyone know what they were there for?)
    Was the feedback writtten down? How was it given? Is it minuted in any Governors minutes, and if so have you had the opportunity to read them and to respond to them?
    What Governor training was undertaken by the individuals involved who gave feedback to a qualified teacher telling her they 'didn't like her lesson'? They are not the intended audience for goodness sake! Wonder how they would take it if you wandered in to their place of workplace and began to commenting on their practitioner skills? Also who are they to decide it could have been done in an ordinary classroom. Personally I would like to see them try!
    Was your teacher governor representative aware of the how the observaions were to be conducted, recorded, commented on etc.? If so were they given a chance to respond before they were conducted? Have they formally feedback to staff on this matter in a staff meeting and has that been recorded?
    You think that one of them was an ex-head teacher? That tells me that no one has taken the time to tell you anything about these governors and their credentials (or lack of them) before they came into your room, and start what seems like pontification about the worth of your lesson. Have you ever been introduced to any of them? Just because he /was/maybe a teacher does not mean he has undertaken training in how to observe. I know this because I have! It aint that easy!!
    Was the throw away comment fedback in the serious circumstances of a performance management meeting going to be used in its write up? If not why was it brought up in the first place? If yes you need to respond as this forms part of your professional record.
    My verdict based on what you have told me:
    Unprofessionlal, shoddy, unplanned and ill-thoughhout without transparency of process and clear objectives. And that's me being kind! My instincts are telling me that perhaps they may have been anticipating an unannounced spot inspection and they had not got cracking on their governors visits until now. Cynical me. If so, shame on them.
    My advice to you may not be to your taste, but here goes: If you are not in a union or professional assocation join now. If you are contact them, not through your school based rep (as an ex school rep myself I can tell you that they will probably lack the necessary experience). They may be even too scared to do anything about. Ring the union/assciation's HQ or Head Office and ask them for advice and guidance about how to proceed to discuss this with SLT in a more professional way than thye have undertaken the visits. That's one of the reasons that you pay your subs.
     
  13. Kate,
    This is the direct result of never-ending exhortations from DfE and Ofsted to get into the classroom - but never telling you what to do when you get there.
    In this vacuum, ex-teacher governors return to type, but they have absolutely no business commenting on quality of teaching. Their previous life must remain an irrelevance.
    If you want to head off recurrences, you could do what I did as CoG and pull together all the staff and governors and thrash out on the flipchart explicitly what questions governors can ask and observations they can make, and what they can't.
    Good luck.
     
  14. kate2521

    kate2521 New commenter

    Thank you all for your responses. I've been told by the Head that "giving an opinion" is not necessarily the same as "making a judgement". It appears the former is acceptable for Governors. We were shown some documentation before the visit but because my HoD played the whole thing down so much, I barely looked at it. Yes, it's a bit of a whitewash but I don't want to make too much of a fuss as I'm part-time and over 50. I will make sure I treat any Governor visit the way I would an Ofsted Inspection next time.
     
  15. grrmummy

    grrmummy New commenter


    That’s interesting. Do you happen to know whether the
    governors who visited and expressed an opinion had teaching/former teaching
    backgrounds?


    I ask the question because I know of one school where a
    parent governor (who is a former teacher at a different school), a community
    governor (who is a retired HT) and a LA governor (who is a retired teacher) are
    apparently doing the sort of thing you describe. It is rumoured that teaching staff
    are unhappy but are too scared to speak out or to seek union advice. However the
    SMT/GB apparently take the view that such visits by this group are highly
    informative and cost effective as external assessments are (apparently) now not
    needed. To me governors visiting classes in this way represents a blurring of
    the lines between operational and strategic matters but I suppose that unless/until
    teachers actually complain to the right people the GB can do what it likes.
    I think your personal approach is the most pragmatic in
    the circumstances you describe, although I do think that Jad’s suggestion (post
    above) that governors and teachers should get together and thrash things out is
    a good one.


    I hope it works out for you. [​IMG]

     
  16. kate2521

    kate2521 New commenter

    Yes, both are former teachers - in fact one is a former HT. I agree that it is blurring the lines, and Jad's suggestions is a good one but I can't see it happening in my school, sadly.
    Thank you for your response.
     

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