OFSTED, and RAG123

This time last week I was feeling really pleased with myself. I had managed to plan what I was going to do every morning, every night after school, and in every bit of non-contact time I had in the week. All my books would be marked by the end of this week, and I would be able to begin returning to the gym to do some strength work to support my running (I am a HUGE running enthusiast – so much so that I am always up early at weekends, either for Parkrun on a Saturday or a longer (10 miles+) run on a Sunday. But I digress…). I had spoken to my HoD about using Kev Lister’s target approach to marking (which can be found here) and she had asked to me introduce it to the rest of the department in our Monday evening meeeting. This was a new stage in my evolution towards Outstanding – I had been able to strike a decent work-life balance. Everything from now on would be just great. 

And things started well enough. I was keeping up with my marking and planning exactly as I had intended. I decided against going to the gym on Tuesday, for reasons which now escape me. 

Wednesday lunchtime, everything changed. We received the dreaded call from OFSTED to say they were in on Thursday and Friday.

I arrived at school on Thursday for 7am and felt reasonably calm. I hadn’t been able to do all my marking, but I was sure my lessons would be fine. At break, I was told by my HoD that she had had a tip off that I would be seen during period 4. Stress levels began to rise and I began to panic in a way I never thought possible of myself. I checked and double checked everything during period 3, met the inspectors whilst waiting to go into period 4, and delivered my lesson. My year 11s were stunned into silence by the visitors. I knew the lesson wasn’t great, and would be a 3 at best. I turned up after school at my allotted time to get my feedback, eager to know where I had gone wrong and what I could do better.

What I got, on the whole, was very different. The inspector made my feel incredibly small and useless, and was, I think, suggesting maybe I should have stuck with my first subject. I felt useless, a fool, and I was furious with the manner in which I had been spoken to. Fortunately, I work in a school with a fantastic SLT, and various members (including the Principal) assured me that they knew how hard I was working and that, coming a few weeks after I had been graded a 2, they knew this wasn’t a true reflection of my teaching. This, although great to hear, was of little consolation to me. Here I was striving to be Outstanding, and yet just been declared Inadequate.

It was Friday night before I could reflect properly on MY part in the debacle. I realised I had been foolish in my lesson – rather than doing a revision lesson with the students and trying to rush through everything to do with fractions, decimals and percentages in a single lesson, I should have worked much more slowly, ensuring students knew what to do and how to do it. My resources weren’t used effectively enough. We rushed certain parts of the lesson and some students would definitely have been confused.

I suppose the point at which you can look back and reflect is also the point at which you can start to look forward again, and so that is what I have done this weekend. Having made sure I have had plenty of rest (which was particularly needed) and regrouped myself, I have a fresh resolve to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. My time is once again planned out for the week, my gym session is planned in, and with any luck I should have a weekend free of any work when I leave school on Friday – which would a welcome and frankly remarkable change.

I wrote last time about my use of diagnostic questions to produce instant feedback. Alongside this, I have now taken to checking my year 9 book after each lesson, to allow for a better planning experience. I have Kev Lister to thank once again, this time for this post here which I have been putting into place over the last week. My year 9s were immediately intrigued by the system, so we have quickly moved on to self assessment. Most of these proved spot on on Friday, although I would have preferred a comment of explanation from the students in some cases as to why they graded themselves as they did. 

The next stage in this evolution came from a different blog, mentioned in Kev’s post, which can be found here. The idea of having questions at the start of the lesson which relate to a student’s understanding of the previous day’s work is something I can’t wait to introduce into my lessons. At the moment I think I am spending too long checking over the books – although it is still early days – and I think a quick check, followed by a regrading on the RAG scale if necessary, and a plan for RAG questions for the next lesson will be a much more productive use of my time. Like I say, at the moment I am solely using it with year 9, but once year 11 mocks are out of the way, they will be introduced to the system, as will the rest of my KS4 classes.

So in the space of a week I have gone from high to low and now back to high. As I posted on Twitter a while back, the great thing about this job is that even if you mess it up, you never have to wait too long to put it right again. And that’s what I intend to do starting this week and next….

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