Inspection and observation: A checklist for class teachers

Written by: Steve Burnage | Published:
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What does Ofsted expect? This is still a central question in the minds of classroom teachers in schools being inspected. Steve Burnage offers a checklist to help teachers prepare

It has been a long time since Ofsted ended the grading of lesson observations and the pressure of school inspections today is supposedly much more focused on school leadership rather than the classroom teacher.

Nonetheless, many teachers will still feel the heat of an Ofsted visit and will be keen to ensure that they play their part in a successful inspection outcome.

The checklists below are aimed at helping teachers to reflect on their practice and to prepare themselves for an Ofsted visit. Needless to say, the checklists are also of general use for teachers, perhaps to ensure you are ready for performance management or internal observation procedures.

Achievement

  • Can you explain how you are accountable for the progress of the pupils that you teach? Show evidence of the direct relationship between your teaching and your pupils’ progress.
  • Can you explain your students’ progress in relation to their starting points and their circumstances? Make sure your explanation is evidence-based and that data you use supports what you are saying.
  • Can you demonstrate the progress made by your pupils over the year to date and can you explain any variations from their individual targets.? Pupils are human and there will be variations. Know why, and, most importantly, evidence what you have done to start to tackle underachievement and the impact that this is having.
  • Do you understand your school’s performance in relation to local as well as national data? Talk with your team about this to make sure you all know and understand the same message.
  • Is your written feedback up-to-date? Make sure your feedback shows pupils how well they have done, what they need to do to improve, and how they can improve.
  • Is your marking followed up so that you can demonstrate that it leads to improvement? Avoid the never-ending cycle of feedback and follow up so loved by some misinformed leadership teams – but ensure you can evidence the impact of your marking on your pupils’ learning and progress.
  • Have you identified the more able and the most able pupils, and ensured that the work you set for them is appropriately challenging to secure rapid progress? Remember exceptionally able pupils have SEN too. They are often insufficiently stretched and challenged in some schools. A good sign of stretch and challenge is that your brightest pupils will be making some mistakes.
  • Do pupils you teach with SEN make good progress from their starting points? Again, make sure this is evidence-based and your data matches your arguments.
  • Can you show that the gap is narrowing between pupils’ achievement and national expectations? If you can, evidence why based on your teaching. If you can’t, what have you changed in your teaching and what difference is this starting to make (based on data and observation)?
  • Do you know which of your pupils is supported by the Pupil Premium and can you explain how it is helping to raise their achievement? It is useful to list these pupils in your planning, show how you are meeting their specific needs and know about their progress. Ensure you are clear on how they are supported through the funding and the difference this is making to their progress. If they are underachieving, what are you changing to change this?
  • Are you able to show that pupils with EAL and those from other vulnerable groups make good progress from their starting points? Can you show how their performance compares favourably with national expectations? If you can, what has contributed to this success (so others might replicate it)? If they are not making good or better progress, do you know why and what are you doing about it? Is there evidence to show the impact of your interventions?

Teaching

  • Do you plan your lessons so they are well-structured to promote pupils’ progressive learning? A good lesson plan is a flexible thing that provides flexible structure that responds to pupils’ needs.
  • Can you demonstrate that you have high expectations of your pupils in the way that you plan and set work for them? Many failing schools have too low expectations of pupils. Underachievement then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Do you differentiate your lessons so that the most able pupils, those with SEN and those with English as an additional language can access the learning with the rest of the class? How can you evidence this?
  • Do you use this on-going assessment to adjust your teaching as the lesson develops? Make sure you use Assessment for Learning effectively and can evidence the impact of this on your pupils’ learning and progress.
  • Is your classroom tidy and organised, with pupils’ workbooks easily to hand? It sounds like a detail, but pupils learn best in a safe and ordered environment, so it matters.
  • Are classroom displays up-to-date, smartly presented and interactive, so that they are part of a stimulating learning environment? Make sure any pupil work displayed tells the viewer what the work is (topic, key stage and year) and includes feedback comments.

Behaviour & safeguarding

  • Do you understand the school’s behaviour management policy and demonstrate how you consistently implement it? Don’t be afraid of managing behaviour when inspectors are in, just consistently follow policy, whatever that might be.
  • How can you evidence that pupils in your class(es) feel safe and valued and relationships in your class(es) are good? You might look at soft data – parent letters, thank you cards, etc – but also quote attendance data.
  • Are there effective systems for supporting pupils with personal problems? Know what these are, implement them consistently and have evidence to show the difference it makes.

Inspection

  • Are you aware of the relevant inspection documentation and do you understand how it is used to shape the inspection? Not the most thrilling of reads, but important (see further information)
  • Will you be able to give your manager an up-to-date timetable of your teaching for the two days of the inspection?
  • Do you have a plan of the actions that you will take when the school receives notice of the inspection?

Leadership & management

  • Are you able to explain to inspectors how your performance management has contributed to improving your teaching and evidence this? Focus on your targets, the improvement you have made against these targets, and the impact of CPD.
  • If you have a subject responsibility, do you have an excellent understanding of the standards and progress that pupils achieve in each year group and against national standards at the end of each key stage? Make sure you can:
    • Evidence the effectiveness of any interventions you and your team have put in place.
    • Evidence you know the strengths and weaknesses of your subject area.
    • Evidence the effectiveness of intervention to improve the outcomes for your department.
    • Evidence that you know how well teachers provide feedback to pupils and how successfully this leads to improvement
  • If you have a pastoral responsibility, do you have an excellent understanding of the standards and progress that pupils achieve in your year group and against national standards at the end of each key stage? Make sure you are able to:
    • Evidence the effectiveness of any interventions you and your team have put in place to improve outcomes for your students.
    • Monitor your year group and know what its strengths and weaknesses are.
    • Evidence the effectiveness of intervention to improve the outcomes for your year group.
    • Evidence how well tutors and other pastoral staff provide feedback to pupils and how successfully this leads to improvement.

Spiritual, moral, social, cultural development

  • Do you ensure that your classroom is a place where pupils’ moral development is promoted by fair play and clear implementation of classroom rules? Have your class ground rules on show, use them as appropriate and make sure everything you do is consistent and fair.
  • Do you use opportunities in class to promote pupils’ social development through collaborative learning? Evidence how you teach group work skills and how you know that group learning is effective, e.g. peer assessment techniques.
  • Do pupils of diverse groups get on well together? If they do, how will you evidence this? If there are issues, what are you doing to resolve these and what difference are your interventions having?
  • Do you make the most of opportunities to promote pupils’ cultural development, both through involvement with creative and artistic elements and in preparing them for a democratic and diverse society?

Conclusion

Preparing for inspection or performance management isn’t about jumping through hoops, it is about doing what you always do to the best of your ability, maintaining a steady focus on your pupils’ learning, progress and welfare, and ensuring you can evidence the positive impact of all that you do.

  • Steve Burnage has experience leading challenging inner city and urban secondary schools. He now works as a freelance trainer and consultant. Visit www.simplyinset.co.uk and read his previous articles for SecEd at http://bit.ly/2u1KW9e

Further reading

  • How Ofsted inspects maintained schools and academies, Ofsted, 2014 (last updated August 2018): http://bit.ly/2wGMZSk
  • Ofsted inspections: Myths, Ofsted, last updated October 2017: http://bit.ly/2rKBR4d
  • School Inspection Handbook: Guidance for inspecting schools under the common inspection framework, Ofsted, June 2015 (last updated July 2018): http://bit.ly/1XFZcMT


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