How Ofsted Grading Criteria Can Be Manipulated 5

 This is the fifth and final post in a series where I look at the Ofsted grade descriptors and show you how they are open to manipulation. I’d really like to hear from people who feel that their performance has been given a grade that is not accurate in order to meet someone’s personal agenda. If this has happened to you, please comment below, or email me.

5. Grade Descriptors: overall effectiveness

Outstanding: Practice in the subject consistently reflects the highest aspirations for pupils and expectations of staff. Best practice is spread effectively in a drive for continuous improvement. Teaching in the subject is likely to be outstanding and together with a rich curriculum, which is highly relevant to pupils’ needs, it contributes to outstanding learning and achievement or, in exceptional circumstances, achievement that is good and rapidly improving.
Good: Effective action is taken in the subject to enable most pupils to reach their potential. Pupils benefit from teaching that is at least good. This promotes very positive attitudes to learning and ensures that achievement in the subject is at least good. Leadership and management of the subject play a significant role in this and are good overall.
Satisfactory: Achievement, the quality of teaching and learning and leadership and management of the subject are all likely to be at least satisfactory with some significant good practice.
Inadequate: Achievement is inadequate. The quality of teaching is inadequate. The curriculum is inadequate. Leadership and management are inadequate.

Firstly, there is a confusion of whether the achievement of students needs to be good or outstanding in order to achieve an outstanding overall. Also, you can have ‘significant good practice’ and still be classed as satisfactory. The actual difference between the grades is therefore very woolly, and your grade can be argued up or down by an observer very easily.

Similarly, students are in control here, because if they choose to not work and therefore underachieve, or as described in the good section, that they don’t achieve their potential, they are ruining your performance, not their own. This creates the situation most teachers complain about, where if the students don’t do the work, you have to do it for them, or it’s you that suffers.

What I find most frustrating is the description for the inadequate grade, which simply states ‘x is inadequate, and y is inadequate’. So, the only evidence you need in order to give someone an inadequate is someone’s opinion that that is the case.

Outstanding: Thoughtful and wide-ranging promotion of the pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in the subject enables them to thrive. Consequently, pupils and groups of pupils have excellent experiences in the subject, ensuring they are very well equipped for the next stage of their education, training or employment.
Good: Deliberate and effective action is taken to promote the pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. A positive climate for learning exists and pupils and groups of pupils have highly positive experiences in the subject so that they are well prepared for the next stage in their education, training or employment.
Satisfactory: Reasonable steps are taken to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Pupils and groups of pupils have a generally positive experience in the subject and are not disadvantaged as they move to the next stage of their education, training or employment.
Inadequate: There are important weaknesses in the promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development resulting in a poor climate for learning in the subject where pupils or groups of pupils are unable to thrive.

This is actually one of the most lucid set of criteria from Ofsted, because you can clearly see the difference between the grades, and sections of it are directly compatible. Much of the descriptors are missing that clarity.

I would argue that many a student would say that they had not had a positive experience of any of their schooling, despite the teacher’s best efforts, in which case you cannot achieve above ‘inadequate’. It’s allowing students to control the outcome for the teacher again, and making teachers responsible for things that they cannot control.

So, in conclusion of this whole series, the Ofsted grade descriptors are generally vague and not explicit enough or requiring very much evidence other than someone’s opinion. It is difficult to tell the difference between grades in some sections, and some parts seem to directly contradict themselves. There is an emphasis on making teachers responsible for things that they can’t control, and there are many logical errors that simply cannot actually exist on reflection.

The chance of you actually being given an accurate assessment of your performance given all the above is very slim.

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


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