Sunday, 23 February 2014

Removing the 'O' Badge

When OFSTED arrived last November, the questions amoung staff went like this:
"Have you been seen?"
"What did you get?"

I was fortunate (?) to get seen twice, so my answers were "Yes, Outstanding" and "Yes, only Good this time." It was a badge to wear, I even wondered if I could send off for the free tshirt? 

The labelling process became all consuming for everyone, we all lined up at either lunchtime or after school... "That was a 2", "It was a 1". This became a definition. I AM A ONE, I AM A TWO. Thankfully not one member of staff was given a RI, that would have been awkward for the rosette.

In many ways we became like the students we teach, despite our best efforts, defined by grades.

There has already been much written about OFSTED's latest announcement, but I wonder what it will take for teachers to not expect a label? I wonder what it will take in schools for Headteachers and Senior Leaders to stop doing observations and attaching a grade? Will teachers be happy with a list of strengths and things to improve?

Why do we want a grade? For me, the two Michael's have done so much to dent the self belief of good teachers that they crave this small affirmation; "If I get good, I won't be in line for capability, I may even get a pay rise...".

We are at a moment in time where schools can take a little responsibility in breaking this down, OFSTED say so! 

I'm just a teacher, I hope Headteachers and Senior Leaders stop grading me. It felt great to be labelled as Outstanding, but I know it was a farce as it was my first Citizenship/PHSE of the year and I knew my Y13 form would play the game... I gave a great little show and got the 1. So what? Absolutely meaningless. 

We are more and better than a system that labels a teacher as a 1, a 2 or even a 4 on 20mins. OFSTED seem to agree and now schools must take on the task of ensuring this.

My school starts Perfromance Management observations after half term, let's see what happens... 

(Written on my ipad, will tidy later...)


  1. It always irritated me when, as a teacher, I gave out marked work at the start of a lesson, and it was greeted by a whispered chorus of 'What did you get? What did you get?' as the pupils compared grades or marks and didn't pay much attention to my lovingly crafted corrections and advice! It was even worse when the time came to return exam papers.

    I remember saying at exam results time, 'It really doesn't matter what your neighbour got. In fact it isn't actually your business. What matters is what YOU got, whether it's an improvement on past performance and how you can perhaps do better next time IF YOU READ AND THINK ABOUT MY COMMENTS!' All that happened is that there was an uneasy silence, and I was aware they broke into 'What did you get? What did you get?' as soon as they were out of my hearing! (And few, I think, paid much attention to the feedback unless it was somehow qualitative in nature).

    In retrospect, it wasn't just innate competitiveness, but knowing how their grade compared with others helped them to understand 'where they were' and what it meant in real terms - in the Ofsted context, 'How rare is 'Outstanding' anyway? Does my grade actually mean something or has everyone got one?'

    When the Head of Department n my first school suggested we stopped putting grades and marks on work and just spent our time and thought on constructive comment, the pupils initially disliked it, then got used to it, then started to read, talk about and think about the advice we'd given them to help them improve...

    (Sorry this comment may turn out to be longer than your original blog! And it did strike me - what if some DID get 'RI' but when asked felt they could say that and so said, 'Good'...)

    1. I meant 'quantitative' there. Just testing....