It is increasingly frustrating as a headteacher, to balance what you believe to be right and what you are told us right. For many years I have believed that lesson observations, when used to grade a teacher, can have the totally opposite effect to the intention. Reading the “secret teacher” recently brought this home yet again when the teacher in question described how it felt to be graded good one minute and inadequate the next. Once the grade has been discussed the teacher inevitably switches off – who wouldn’t?
Peer observation has been explored time and time again but in a climate (my school) where teachers look out for each other and refuse to look beyond their friendships, this has limited impact. It is no good being told your are good if you are not…
I have long been an advocate of the non graded lesson observation. Giving praise where praise is due, questioning areas for development and setting targets for improvement – no grade! Improvement in teaching is seen by revisiting the targets set, looking at the books and talking to children.
Sadly, during a recent local authority visit though, this approach was very much frowned upon. I was told, after the LA advisor had observed a number if lessons with me, that my teaching profile was all wrong and needed to submit a teacher profile with a percentage of teachers at each grade. I thought I had misread the ofsted guidance on grading the quality of teaching over time – I never thought I would say this but thank god for Wilshaw and his reinforcement of how we shouldn’t judge teaching and learning in a school. I am due for another LA visit next week and am interested to see how the advisor has changed approach (or not as the case may be).
The pressure is on from the LA to tow the line – but what if they line is not the right one? It once again feels like I am standing out on a limb. I can see a negative report being produced which states that I am not in agreement with LA and am being awkward. I think all LA officers should be ofsted trained as a bare minimum and not just stick to what Mick Waters calls the game.
Support teachers to improve, yes get rid of those who fall below the expectation consistently. But let’s stop this nonsense grading of individual lessons and the talley system of grading teaching and learning.