Scrap the ‘Quality of Teaching’ grade
Yesterday, my report on Ofsted inspections was published by the think tank Civitas. It is entitled Playing the Game: The enduring influence of the preferred Ofsted teaching style, and you can read it for free here.
The report recommends an end to the ‘Quality of Teaching’ grade in Section 5 Ofsted inspections. There are four main reasons for this recommendation.
- Ofsted inspectors have a longstanding preference for child-centred teaching methods, and prejudice against more teacher-led alternatives. According to my analysis, in 2013, 52% of secondary inspection reports showed a preference for pupils working independent of teacher instruction, 42% showed a preference for group work, and 18% criticised teachers for talking too much. This is a problem because there is no empirical evidence that the teaching methods that Ofsted inspectors favour are more effective than alternatives. In many cases (direct instruction, repeated practice, clarity of explanation) the opposite appears to be the case.
- Inspectors cannot reliably assess teacher quality according to lesson observations. This is a fact clearly established by the Measures of Effective of Teaching (MET) project in the US, a five year research project involving 3,000 volunteer teachers and costing $50 million. These findings have been assessed by the Sutton Trust, and the think tank Policy Exchange, and should have significant implications for the conduct of performance management and school inspections in the UK. Projecting the findings of the MET project onto Ofsted, Prof Rob Coe has suggested that, in the best case scenario, only 49 per cent of observation grade judgements would agree with future pupil achievement.
- The Quality of Teaching Grade is redundant. According to the Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First, Sam Freedman, the ‘Quality of Teaching’ grade aligns with the ‘Achievement of Pupils’ grade in 97% of Ofsted inspections. There is little reason to expect the situation to be otherwise: if pupil achievement is good within a school, then it can be fairly assumed that teaching is also good. This much seems to be evident in latest Ofsted framework for inspections, which when writing about ‘Quality of Teaching’ grade states: ‘The most important role of teaching is to promote learning and to raise pupils’ achievement.’
- English teachers are some of the most over-observed in the world. The OECD’s 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) found that 99 per cent of English teachers receive annual feedback through classroom observations. This compared to an OECD average of 79 per cent and an average of 81 per cent from amongst the nine highest performing countries. In addition, English teachers were the least likely of all teachers in 34 OECD countries to say that observation feedback resulted in a moderate or large positive change in four areas: confidence as a teacher; knowledge and understanding of main subject field(s); motivation; and job satisfaction.
In short, Ofsted’s assessment of teacher quality is biased, ineffective, unnecessary and deeply resented. As Joe Kirby wrote yesterday, ‘When the Anti-Academies Alliance agree with Free School trust founders, the tremors reach Whitehall.’
My report, Playing the Game, focused on a widely held concern within the profession for Ofsted’s power to curtail the professionalism of teachers. It was covered in the TES, the BBC, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Telegraph. It has been written about by teacher-bloggers Stuart Lock, Joe Kirby, David Didau and Tom Bennett (who has issued a threat of physical violence to any inspector who reprimands him for talking too much – ‘I’ll snap their bloody fingers off’).
So far, I have heard of no convincing counter arguments for retaining the ‘Quality of Teaching’ grade. Ofsted should now either pledge to scrap the grade, or issue a convincing argument for its retention.