Ofsted busts ‘myths’ on book-marking and lesson plans

Use the red pen as much or as little as you like.

That seems to be the message from guidance that Ofsted has put out today, clarifying their position on a recent area of concern.

The clarification was one of a number of points in ‘myth-busting’ guidance from inspectorate – designed to prevent “unnecessary” workloads.

The news was welcomed by teaching unions, several of whom had called on Ofsted to set out its position on teacher workload and the burden of book-marking during the recent party conference season.

It comes after a series of talks between the Department for Education and trade unions, and follows sympathetic noises from the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, on teacher workload.

The inspectorate recently moved from grading individual lessons, but this had led to concerns about the emphasis that would be put on assessing marking of students’ work.

The new guidance makes clear that Ofsted intends to remain open-minded about how feedback is provided.

“Ofsted does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders. Ofsted recognises that the amount of work in books will often depend on the age and ability of the pupils,” the guidance says.

Additionally, the inspectorate said that it did not expect to see “unnecessary or extensive written dialogue between teachers and pupils in exercise books and folders.”

“Ofsted recognises the importance of different forms of feedback and inspectors will look at how these are used to promote learning,” the guidance says.

The guidance also makes clear that Ofsted does not require schools to undertake a specified amount of lesson observations, nor will it expect to see standardised lesson planning.

“Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes,” the guidance says.

Commenting on the publication, Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said: “The ‘myth-busters’ document from Ofsted is useful in clarifying what inspectors can ask for, but everyone needs to recognise that it is not regulation.

“Ofsted is not telling school leaders they cannot ask teachers for these things, or saying that teachers can refuse to produce them.

“Headteachers need to be mindful of not creating unnecessary workload for their staff. However, heads need to make professional judgements about what is going to help schools to improve. This is especially true when a school needs to make rapid progress. The Ofsted guidance does not prevent this from happening.”

The document was also welcomed by the Association of Teachers and Leaders, and the National Union of Teachers.

Commenting on the guidance, Nicky Morgan stated that she recognised the burden that government regulations could put on teachers.

“I know that teachers can face an unnecessarily high workload, with needless bureaucracy stopping them from spending time on the things that make a real difference to their pupils,” she said.

“That is why I welcome this publication from Ofsted, which clearly sets out facts for schools about inspections. This simple set of statements will help to dispel myths which can lead to schools providing reams of additional paperwork for inspectors.”

The inspectorate said that its guidance was intended “to confirm facts about the requirements of Ofsted and to dispel myths that can result in unnecessary workloads in schools”.