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Lesson Observations with no notice - the only way forward

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by Athena_Owl, Sep 16, 2009.

  1. starlightexpress

    starlightexpress Occasional commenter

    Having received a certain so-called Outstanding teacher's classes the following year, seen the books and planning (if exists), walked by the lessons before and after these Outstanding ones, I would certainly welcome surprise observations. The consistently good teachers (and genuinely good ones) will be this day in day out. I'd want to stop those who play the game 3-6 times a year and then slack for the rest of the time. I've even seen 2 teachers in different schools, practice their observed lesson the day before with the children!
  2. becky70

    becky70 Occasional commenter

    Sorry, Mrkeys! Hope I haven't offended [​IMG]
  3. Athena owl, Are you the same person who runs the Teacher Competency Network? What are you playing at? Are you playing devil's advocate in posts on this thread (and elsewhere)? Do you honestly expect people to sign up to your website when you post as you dio here?
  4. mrkeys

    mrkeys Occasional commenter

    No offence, I had simply read quite a few of the OP's posts on other threads!
    There are enough problems in teaching without having these rather offensive and pointless postings on this and many other forums.
  5. It is, as has been pointed out, irony. I guess it either makes a point or it does not.
    Ultimately it is a way of reflecting attitudes that some school-leaders do seem to have. At least that is the only way to explain their actions, many of which I do get to hear about.

    To which I will add I also hear about excellent school-leaders who are a credit to their profession.
  6. Offensive? Possibly if they hit a few nerves.
    Pointless? Not if they hit a few nerves.
  7. Not really true is it? OFSTED give notice that they are on their way and, although they can come into any lesson at any time, this is for a limited period and happens infrequently.
    As for your other points, I think the main point is that data on teachers should be collected consistently, so that it is comparable with other colleagues at the same school.
    The fact is that unannounced observations are often used only for teachers on Competency Procedures, even though this provides no usefully comaparable data with other teachers at the same school. This means that the "data" collected is probably secondary to driving the teacher out of their post.
    I take the view that the reason why OFSTED will not go to actual no-notice is that they do not want to see the reality of modern education and the apparent disconnect between "standards of teaching" and exam-results that this would confront them with.
    After all, if you have declared that an "ideal" lesson should look a certain way, and yet teachers who deviate from that still acheive good results, that would be a little challenging to the official view, would it not?
    Or is the above a little cynical of me?
    needabreak likes this.
  8. Well at least that establishes excellent classroom discipline and/or a good relationship with the students.
  9. starlightexpress

    starlightexpress Occasional commenter

    Yes definitely...
    ...though frequently with these two teachers through bribery ;-)

    The honest teachers are those who just let SLT walk in- no pre-warned children, no over-prepared lessons. Letting an observer see daily practice, no show. The teachers highest in my estimation are those whose lessons I walk past on a daily basis producing 'good' teaching and learning. This is the norm for them. I guess it's a question of integrity.

  10. Is there a policy for integrity? [​IMG]
  11. starlightexpress

    starlightexpress Occasional commenter

    Athena- great response- love it!!! :)
  12. Thank you [​IMG]
    This is the thing with observations: If their consequences are built up and built up, and if teachers are rarely observed, then they become hugely stressful and will have nothing to do with the reality of everyday teaching.
    Now that is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as every teacher is being judged to a comparable standard. Arguably the only ones disadvantaged are those who just hate being observed, which such a regime will tend to make worse.
    Under such a regime, if you suddenly impose unannounced formal observations on a teacher on Competency then it is only going to result in one thing: the end of a career.
    Heads must know this.
  13. Surely it is only fair that Headteachers observe using Ofsted protocols and procedures, i.e. no notice. When Ofsted inspect, they expect heads to have an accurate view of teaching and learning in every classroom/for every teacher. Judgements made in observations with long notice, for which teachers often seek support from others, over plan etc. (and we have all done it- heads were teachers once too!) may be very different from those no notice visits undertaken during inspection. This could lead to a judgement of inadequate for self-evaluation and possibily capacity to improve and/or leadership and management if inspectors deem that senior staff do not make accurate judgements about teaching and learning.

    And indeed, the law does allow recorded observations with no notice, as long as they are not contributing towards performance management.

    However, I do try to compromise with my staff. We have a monitoring week each term during which SLMT members do drop ins at any time. My staff seem to think this is fair. I do drop in at other times and generally don't record these, but offer verbal feedback if teachers want it.

  14. OFSTED "no notice"?
    Are you sure about that? an OFSTED inspection imposes the most pressure a teacher is put under if not on a Competency Procedure, but any observation is hardly withour notice.
    They are given several days notice to plan for a two day period, during which they can be observed at any time for 20 minutes in one lesson.
    This does not even compare to the cases of 1 hour observations taking place during a period of WEEKS that I have been informed of. All during Competency Procedures.
    ....Does the law, in this case, include Competency Procedures? Questio Quid Juris?

  15. Athena,
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3"> </font> You need to be aware of the new Ofsted Framework (with which I am not saying I am in agreement!) which came into force on 1st of September this year. Under it, schools will be contacted and given a 20 school day period, during which time an inspector/inspectors will arrive with 30 minutes notice. This new framework also increases the importance of evidence gained through classroom observation, along with a number of other changes.
    Observations need no longer be of at least 20 minute duration (this actually changed in the 2005 Framework) and can be significantly shorter or longer.
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3"> </font> My point being that, if Ofsted are now monitoring under these protocols, heads will need to do the same.
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3"> </font> Perhaps some teachers/schools will find this approach less stressful- we will see.
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3"> </font> No specific law says that no-notice observation is allowable in school. However, no specific law says it isn&rsquo;t either! Read the 2009 pay and conditions document and the 2006 statutory instruments for performance management which are the two legal documents governing classroom observation. A requirement to give notice of observation is not included.
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3"> </font><font face="Times New Roman">CfBT Classroom Observation Protocol 2007 (which is guidance not law) states that: &lsquo;A head teacher has a duty to evaluate the standards of teaching and learning and to ensure that proper standards of professional performance are established and maintained. Heads have a right to drop in to inform their monitoring of the quality of learning.&rsquo; </font><font face="Times New Roman" size="3"> </font>
    In terms of competency, observation has to be agreed in the competency plan and this can include no-notice observations. However, it is my understanding that these should not contribute to the evidence for the competency proceedings- but am not certain of my ground here, having never had to undertake competency proceedings against a member of staff.
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3"> </font> I, personally, am not suggesting that this is right ethically. I feel it is too grey and could certainly be subject to abuse by unscrupulous managers.
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3"> </font> However, a balance has to be struck between supporting and developing staff (which any good headteacher genuinely wants) and ensuring that children have consistently good provision.
  16. Thanks for the heads up.
    The relevant document on the OFSTED site is here:
    "5. The contractor or &lsquo;inspection service provider&rsquo; informs the school that it
    is to be inspected, giving no more than two working days&rsquo; notice. Lead
    inspectors make contact with the school as soon as possible after
    "9. Subject to the availability of the headteacher, or in the headteacher&rsquo;s
    absence the most senior member of staff, the lead inspector should
    make initial contact within 24 hours of the school being notified of an
    Can you give me a reference for the 20 day period and 30 minutes notice provisions? Are you usre these don't just apply to schools on a notice to improve/special measures?

    Yes, but the first quote above refers to a Headteacher's entitlment to drop-in to check on quality of teaching and learning in his/her school. This is not in dispute.
    Neither is the obvious point that such drop-ins might inform the Performance Management process.
    What this is about is when an observation results in a recorded overall judgement as to the quality of teaching and learning, which is placed on file and used for the purposes of Performance Management/Competency.
    Your point about there being no law saying that no-notice observations are NOT allowed is moot, since the right of a head to use drop-ins is openly stated in published guidance.
    However the right of a teacher to have notice of a PM observation is also stated in guidance from CfBT.
    This is also my understanding. Obviously a teacher on compatency can be subject to drop-in just like any other. But they should be formally judged according to a laid down procedure, which should make reference to a specific lesson-observation protocol. In many Capability policies that I have seen there is no such reference to suc a protocol, which seens to hint that the Head can observe them in any way they please. this has dangerous legal implications re. the Duty of Care.
    I think it should be a basic principle that a teacher on competency should be judged to the same standard that they have failed, ie. that which their collegues are subjected to, whether or not this prepares staff for and OFSTED. This is about consistency and comparability of judgement.
    This, of course, raises the question: Why are teachers given notice of formal observation?
    If it is the case that observations are directly comparable regardless of notice given (a self-evident nonsense I would argue) then logically all no-notice does is to increase stress for no gain in information gathered.
    If it is the case that with-notice observations tend to yield better results that no-notice then the two cannot be compared and shpuld not be judged to the same standard.
    In any case, the standard that teachers are supposed to display in observations for performance management, and the notice given, should be consistent for all teachers, whether on PM or CP. Otherwise there is no comparability with which to fairly conclude that a teacher is failing when compared to those around them.
  17. Apologies for apalling typing! I'm on my way out for the evening [​IMG]
  18. Athena,
    Sorry should have been clearer- monitoring visits (not isection 5 nspections as such- but feels the same!) for Special Measures, Notice to Imrpove and 40% of satisfactory schools (of course they aren't aware that they will be in the 40%). Half of schools are graded satisfactory/SM/NtI and could be subject to monitoring without notice (20 days and 30 minutes apply). Other than the new inspection framework, my evidence comes from a collegue of mine, whose school was judged as satisfactory last year and has had this no notice approach and a circular received by heads last week. I have left it at school at the moment, but can let you know the circular reference next week (if it hasn't yet hit the shredder!)
    However, in addition to this, HMI inspections of subjects and strands in any schools (including those in Good and Outstanding) can be no notice- see Ofsted protocol for no notice inspections.
    These inspections can be 'deemed section 5 inspections' if inspectors feel that schools require Special Measures or Notice.
    We are in agreement about the legal situation: heads (and SLMT if delegated) can drop in (must be stated in a school policy) but if observations are for purposes of PM or competency 48 hours of notice should be given. There is a legal requirement for this to be set out in a policy with an agreed classroom observation protocol.
    I think you make a very valid point about the consistency of observations. But this begs the question- why not make ALL observations no notice? Shouldn't teachers be providing a consistent standard of teaching and learning every day? This was the perspective of parents on Ofsted consultation- there was an attitude that schools put on the 'window dressing' for Ofsted and inspectors didn't see what actually happened every day.
    Some may ask, why is there an inconsistency between notice and no notice observation- is it because teachers don't usually do their job well? Playing devil's advocate here- but be careful about the political implications of this one!
    This is the argument when it comes to no-notice inspections- that schools should operate well on a daily basis not 'set it up' for inspection.
    My personal opinion is that lesson observation is a small part of a much, much wider monitoring picture. I may make lesson obs judgements, but I also put that into context with progress rates and work scrutiny and pupil interviews. This gives me a rounded picture.
    In the end, protocols and procedures are all well and good, but, as many pieces of leadership research have shown, the best heads build respectful and supportive relationships with their staff. They consult and support, create a shared vision, model standards and engender dabate and dialogue. In this ethos, most teachers can thrive.
    However, they have no tolerance of prolonged poor practice and poor progress despite support. This is how they ensure that children get the best possible provision. So, this relationship does mean being honest about teachers who are failing.
    In additon, in my experience of 4 Ofsted inspections and 2 monitoring visits in my career so far, inspectors can be highly variable in their judgements (I am sure HMI monitoring has found this- but can't quote you the report) and can often overgrade lessons that look 'flash' and undergrade lessons that focus on learning- rather than teaching. I think this is improving, but it's been slow.
    Don't worry about spelling- it's only worth 3% on th SATS!! (Sorry, the after effects of years of being in Y6!)
    Although, I do have a real thing about poor use of apostrophies-Sad! You watch somebody pick this one up and find a mistake in a future posting! The world is full of pedants.
    Hope you had a great night- can't believe you still have energy to go out on a Friday night!

  19. This week we have just received a letter from OFSTED which was sent out to all Grade 3 schools. It states as that monitoring visits will be increasing to 40% of schools. When schools are notified they can be visited any time during the next 4 weeks and school will get a call half an hour before the inspector arrives!
    I am going to give staff a 2 week block and am going to drop in unannounced on any lesson for a 20 minute 'snapshot'. This is part of my monitoring plan anyway, but I think staff were more receptive to the idea once the OFSTED letter came!! They were quite enthusiastic about this and ageed it would give me a much better picture of teaching in school - I took over as Acting HT at the beginning of this term.
  20. Was beaten by the previous poster!! Sorry!

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