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An Ofsted Outstanding Mathematics Lesson

04 July 2013

I have this little theory.  The Ofsted criteria is not responsible for most of the dumbed down teaching that I see when I visit schools.  In fact, it is far more likely to be the head teacher's screwed up interpretation of some course they went on 5 years ago.  So I continually see the same old things.

But why can't schooling be better than that?  Why can't we re-instill some intellect?

The Ofsted criteria isn't stopping us.

Below is the criteria for outstanding, alongside what I typically see when inspecting or visiting schools.

But it doesn't have to be this way... why can't the bar be a whole lot higher?  Here are some suggestions:

 Ofsted Criteria for Outstanding...

What I see in schools...  Why can't it mean this... 
Much of the teaching in all key stages is outstanding and never less than consistently good. As a result, almost all pupils, including disabled pupils, those with special educational needs and those for whom the Pupil Premium provides support, are making rapid and sustained progress. Well, this is a pretty meaningless statement, so let's move on to the next...  
All teachers have consistently high expectations of all pupils. They plan and teach lessons that enable pupils to learn exceptionally well across the curriculum. Would appear that this means longwinded lesson plans with all sorts of groups and sub-groups identified in little boxes and some 'differentiated' resources that have taken an eternity to prepare just for this one observation lesson (because ask any kid and they'll tell you it's not usually like this) Teachers know the subject inside out and can see where it is going. They can go off at a tangent any time they like, allow kids to take them down different lines of enquiry, and they know what their kids can and what their kids can't do.
Teachers systematically and effectively check pupils' understanding throughout lessons, anticipating where they may need to intervene and doing so with notable impact on the quality of learning. Fucking traffic lights and hands up with different number of fingers, smiley bloody faces and kids talking crap about what sub-level they are (even though this is utterly meaningless) Teachers use their wealth of experience to know how a lesson is going to pan out with kids of this ability, so they anticipate what to do. They TEACH the topic thoroughly at the start so that everyone can get on. Check kids working and answers as the lesson goes on and sort out kids with problems.
The teaching of reading, writing, communication and mathematics is highly effective and cohesively planned and implemented across the curriculum. Some sort of handbook, written by copying and pasting one from the internet, never read. Handed out during a Baker day. Forgotten. Inevitably contains dire phrases like 'children should be allowed to choose their own methods for multiplying' Schools employ people with brains, who are learn'd individuals, who know more than their own subject, so that the basic tools of learning – reading, writing and number skills – are automatically a part of everyone's repertoire.
Teachers and other adults generate high levels of engagement and commitment to learning. Edu-godamned-tainment. Everything must be fun, lots of happy happy faces. Don't worry whether or not they are actually learning. Nobody is allowed to feel, for even the slightest moment, any anxiety or any feeling that they might be wrong. Holy shit. Mathematics is demanding and the teacher has no time for spoonfeeding Engagement is about fighting with a massively difficult problem after being taught the skills and knowledge required to overcome it. Kids scratch heads a lot. High pressure, high feeling of 'oh-fuck-yeah' when answer is finally extracted from the haze.
Consistently high-quality marking and constructive feedback from teachers ensure that pupils make rapid gains. Bubbles and Blocks. Jesus. Twee statements that are never read because the start of lessons is invariably rushed and there is no time to think about what happened in the past. Teachers spending stupid hours marking page after page after page for no gain for anyone. They are tired and resentful, apart from some oddballs who have no better way to spend their social life. They twitch a lot and have difficulties with 'kids from the estate' Teachers actually KNOW their kids and know their subject. They keep them just on the perfect cusp of challenge.
Teachers use well-judged and often inspirational teaching strategies, including setting appropriate homework, which together with sharply focused and timely support and intervention, match individual needs accurately. Consequently, pupils learn exceptionally well. Inspirational = pain in the arse, happy go lucky, weird nylon ties. Appropriate homework is largely unrelated worksheets handed out in haste because some ill conceived policy says every child must have three maths homeworks per week, regardless of whether or not they are needed or have any impact. Tick! Box filled. The teacher is a towering intellect. They know mathematics like the back of their hand and have kids hanging on their every word. They show mathematics being carried out with skill and a deftness that kids admire. They expect and demand kids take responsibility for their own learning, and it is simply a norm that kids turn up having prepared for the lesson.