How Ofsted Grading Criteria Can Be Manipulated 3

This is the third in a series of posts that looks at the generic grade descriptors published by Ofsted, and shows you exactly how someone could manipulate them to meet their own ends. So far, the main problems that have been unearthed are: 

- the requirement for teachers to do something that is out of their control in order to meet a certain grade
- logical impossibilities relating to the requirement to reach at least a ‘good’ and regarding average student ability and expectations
- vagueness and lack of explicitness that is inconsistent across different grades, in general the criteria for outstanding being much more explicit than that of inadequate

3. Grade Descriptors: the curriculum

Outstanding: The curriculum in the subject provides highly positive, memorable experiences and rich opportunities for high quality learning, has a very positive impact on pupils’ behaviour and, where appropriate, their safety, and contributes very well to pupils’ achievement and, where appropriate, to their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
Good: The curriculum in the subject provides well organised, imaginative and effective opportunities for learning for all groups of pupils including disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs, promotes positive behaviour and, where appropriate, their safety, and provides a broad range of experiences that contribute well to the pupils’ achievement and, where appropriate, to their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
Satisfactory: The curriculum in the subject is generally matched to pupils’ needs, interests and aspirations and provides adequate preparation for the next stage of their lives, whatever their starting points.
Inadequate: The curriculum in the subject fails to meet the needs of pupils or particular groups of pupils.  

Firstly, the inconsistency between the different grade descriptors is very profound here. The most striking is that the only mention of SEN students is within the good criteria (although ‘particular groups’ are mentioned in inadequate), and you can see very clearly that as the grade gets lower, there are noticeably less words used to describe that grade. This means less evidence is required to give someone an inadequate, and more is required to give an outstanding. Surely the amount of evidence generated from a lesson of any level of quality should be the same?

Within the outstanding and good categories itstates, 'curriculum needs to be designed to impact on student’s behaviour': I’m not entirely sure why the two are linked – surely the only thing that can possibly impact behaviour is good behaviour management? Certainly activities can be pitched at students who are known to behave better or worse, for example, better behaved students can cope better with group tasks. But is this not contradictory to high expectations? Also, in order to impact on behaviour, does that not require a restriction in available curriculum opportunities?

Also with regards to this particular requirement, in good you are simply required to ‘promote’ good behaviour, while in outstanding you are required to have an ‘impact’ on it. Did you know that you only need to promote good behaviour to achieve a good, not actually get the students to do the good behaviour? That doesn’t sound right at all, and certainly is not how it is interpreted ‘on the ground’.

If you want to read the full Ofsted grade descriptors they can be found at this link.

Can you explain how to make sense of these particular descriptors? Are you satisfied with how your curriculum is being assessed? Please comment below.


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