What is OFSTED? | Educational Standards

What does OFSTED stand for?

OFSTED stands for the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

What are the main responsibilities of OFSTED?

OFSTED is responsible for:

  1. The inspection and regulation of educational institutions including independent schools, state schools, academies and childcare facilities
  2. The inspection of agencies responsible for adoption, fostering and other social care services
  3. The inspection of other services for children and young people
  4. Carrying out research on education and social care
  5. Reporting on the above institutions and relaying the information to the government

Although OFSTED is a non-ministerial department of the UK government and reports to Parliament, it is independent and impartial.

What is an OFSTED rating?

OFSTED rank schools based on information gathered in inspections which they undertake. OFSTED ratings are the means by which OFSTED inspectors indicate the quality of an institution following an inspection.

There are four OFSTED ratings:

  1. Grade 1: Outstanding

    An outstanding school provides exceptionally well for the needs of its pupils and prepares them for the next stage of their education or employment at the highest possible level.
    Educational institutions which are rated as ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED are exempt from routine OFSTED inspection unless they are nurseries, special schools or Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).

  2. Grade 2: Good

    A good school provides well for the needs of its pupils and prepares them effectively for the next stage of their education or employment. Schools rated as ‘good’ receive a one-day short inspection every three years, or a full inspection if the school’s performance has changed dramatically.

  3. Grade 3: Requires Improvement.

    A school that requires improvement is not inadequate, but neither is it satisfactory. Schools which are rated as requiring improvement will receive another full OFSTED inspection within two years in order to monitor their progress.

  4. Grade 4: Inadequate

    An inadequate school has significant weaknesses and is failing to prepare its students effectively for the next stages of their lives. The management and leadership, however, are judged to be Grade 3 or above. Schools graded as inadequate will receive regular OFSTED inspections. If the management team of a Grade 4 school is not judged to be Grade 3 or above, it will be ranked as a Special Measures school. An inadequate school has significant weaknesses and is failing to prepare its students effectively for the next stages of their lives. The management and leadership, however, are judged to be Grade 3 or above.

    Schools graded as inadequate will receive regular OFSTED inspections. If the management team of a Grade 4 school is not judged to be Grade 3 or above, it will be ranked as a Special Measures school.

How much notice do OFSTED give before an inspection?

Generally speaking, OFSTED will notify a school at midday on the day before its inspection. This is to ensure that the headteacher, the chair of governors and all other relevant staff members are present for the inspection.

In situations where serious complaints have been made about a school – such as those pertaining to pupils’ safety – OFSTED can inspect a school without prior notice. In this case, the school will be notified fifteen minutes before the arrival of the OFSTED inspector.

OFSTED inspections cannot take place in the first five working days of the autumn term. They can also be deferred in exceptional circumstances such as school closure.

What happens during an OFSTED inspection?

The most important aspect of an OFSTED inspection is class observation. The inspectors will sit in on lessons and gather evidence in order to help them gauge a school’s rating.

Other inspection methods used by OFSTED include:

  1. Communicating with pupils and teaching staff about the school
  2. Taking into consideration school evaluations undertaken by local authorities
  3. Meeting with the headteacher and senior staff members in order to discuss their findings and provide oral feedback

After the inspection OFSTED will:

  1. Write a full report on the findings of their inspection
  2. Send this report to the school in order to receive feedback
  3. The completed report is then published by OFSTED within twenty eight days of the inspection

The school is required by law to provide a copy of the report to the parents of all pupils.

Classroom Management Strategies

Create a positive environment

Creating a positive environment for your students – both emotionally and physically – is one of the best classroom management strategies.

In order to create a good relationship with your students, try:

  1. Greeting your students by name. Students who feel as though they have a personal relationship with their teachers are often more motivated
  2. Saying good morning/afternoon and goodbye when your students enter and leave your classroom. This expresses that you are pleased to see them and sets an example to the students of the kind of polite behaviour you expect from them in return
  3. Taking opportunities to build relationships with your students. Chat to them, recommend books or websites that will interest them and pay attention to their likes and dislikes

The way that your students interact with each other in your classroom is as important as the way they interact with you. Praise positive interactions, foster good working relationships between students in your classes and never permit any cruelty or disrespect.

Consider the layout of the classroom

The layout of a classroom also has a demonstrable impact on the learning environment. The traditional classroom structure with students seated in rows facing the front can make classroom management difficult.

Studies have shown that arranging desks in a semicircle creates a more integrated and communicative atmosphere in the classroom, leading to a more enjoyable and effective learning experience for students. This, in turn, can reduce misbehaviour.

Make sure that all your students can see and hear you, each other and if necessary, the board. Take steps to eliminate any other distractions such as overly bright or flickering lights or cold draughts that could negatively impact your learning environment.

Use positive body language

Body language, though less overt than many other classroom management strategies, is one of the most important aspects of classroom management. It is vital that your non-verbal communication with students reinforces your verbal instructions rather than undermining them.

Positive body language includes:

  1. Animated facial expressions and gestures
  2. Frequent smiling
  3. Confident, upright posture
  4. Uncrossed arms
  5. A clear and upbeat voice
  6. A varied tone – monotonous speech results in students losing focus

Movement also plays a significant role in successful classroom management. Try:

  1. Walking freely around the classroom in order to distribute your attention amongst your students
  2. Avoiding barriers (such as desks) between yourself and your students
  3. Crouching down so that you are on, or below, a student’s eye level when you are addressing them

Use sanctions where necessary

The manner in which you issue sanctions is a reflection of your ability to manage a classroom.

When correcting a student’s behaviour:

  1. Be clear about what you are instructing the student to do, or not to do. Use simple language
  2. Avoid a punitive tone. Be confident, polite and friendly in your manner. Students are more likely to respect you if they feel that you respect them
  3. Discretion is advised. Humiliating a student by reprimanding them when the whole class can hear increases the likelihood of escalation
  4. Keep it brief. You don’t want to get into a debate – or worse, an argument. Your instruction is non-negotiable. Deliver it and move on, walk away or speak to another student

Use positive reinforcement

Many children simply misbehave for attention. You can counteract this by providing them with the attention they crave in positive reinforcements instead of negative ones

In order to put this into practice:

  1. Tone down your reprimands. When a student tries to get your attention at an inappropriate time, ignore the behaviour or quietly and calmly instruct them to resume their work
  2. Focus on praising the student when they are behaving well. If they learn to associate attention with positive behaviour, this will break their pattern of seeking negative attention

Remember that for every student being disruptive, there are usually many others behaving well. If your focus is always on the misbehaving student, you’re reinforcing that behaviour.

Preparing for the GDPR: what you need to think about

Guest blog from Fergal Roche:

“Fergal Roche is the Chief Executive of The Key, a company that provides trusted leadership and management support to over 40% of the schools in England and Wales.

Through his work regularly visiting and engaging with some of The Key’s 100,000 members, he has great insight into the world of school leadership and the issues affecting school leaders and governors today. 

He has been headteacher/principal of three schools and currently chairs the board of a multi-academy trust in Guildford.

He holds a BA (QTS) from Exeter University, an MA from the Open University and an MBA from Nottingham University.

Fergal is passionately committed to supporting schools in delivering better outcomes for children and young people. In 2007 he joined Ten Group to set up The Key and realise his vision of a service that would enable school leaders to run their schools with increased confidence, knowledge and capacity.”


Preparing for the GDPR: what you need to think about

It’s now only a few short months before the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force.  From 25 May 2018, the new regulations will affect the way schools process people’s personal data, with the aim of ensuring sensitive data is kept safe and secure.  It’s similar to the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998 in many ways – most of the differences involve the GDPR building on or strengthening these principles. If you’re compliant with the DPA now, you’ll be compliant with much of the GDPR already.

If you haven’t already started looking into what you need to do to prepare, there are lots of resources available online to help you quickly get up to speed. Cutting the requirements down into timely and achievable objectives is the simplest way to tackle it – our GDPR roadmap is an example of how you could break down the key milestones.

There are a number of things to think about, but broadly speaking, kick-starting the process with an audit to map out the personal data your school holds, where it came from, and what you do with it, is the first step.  Collating this information aligned against the 6 lawful bases laid out in the new regulations will help you quickly see which areas you’re already compliant in, and where you need to focus your efforts. Doing this will also help you to establish a record of your data processing activities, which you can maintain going forward. It will also enable you to update your privacy notices, to ensure these are compliant. Make sure they are in clear, plain language – especially those that refer to children’s data, so that a child can understand them.

Perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle in these early stages is to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO), who must be in place by the time the regulation comes into force. Your DPO will be someone in your school, someone you share with other schools, or an external data protection adviser, who takes responsibility for monitoring data protection compliance and has the knowledge, support and authority to do so effectively.

Priorities for March

Having completed these steps, take the rest of March to ensure your data processing procedures are in line with the new requirements. Look at how you honour individuals’ rights and respond to subject access requests, and check you have a robust system for managing consent, where you need to get it.

Think about how you might respond in the case of a data breach, and put procedures in place to demonstrate how you would detect, report and investigate personal data breaches.  

It may seem like a daunting process, especially with limited time! However, splitting the requirements out into manageable chunks and tackling one task at a time will ensure you’re able to get everything done in time, and have one less thing to worry about.  For more information and support, The Key has tonnes of useful resources and templates available to help you along the way.

Maker Difference

A guest blog by Donna Rawling.

“I am Computing Lead at a Primary school in Greater Manchester. I ama CAS Master Teacher, Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, BCS accredited and a Barefoot Computing presenter. My passion is to encourage as many children as possible to study Computer Science and ultimately pursue a career in the Sciences. I do this through a STEM/STEAM, MakerEd approach wherever possible, with a huge emphasis on Growth Mindset and resilience. I hold daily drop-ins in the school makerspace which I have developed, it’s attended by up to 40 children, where junk modelling, knitting and Coding are all part of the lunchtime sessions”

For much of her life I’ve had a sense of what is important to me, but also very much a feel of many strands of my life, experiences and, dare I say my talents (as I perceive them) to be the raw materials of some as yet unwoven cloth or project.

My ‘lightbulb moment’ (more of the lightbulb later) came when I inherited my Mum’s button tin.

When I sadly lost my Mum 5 years ago, one of the things that I felt really strongly that I wanted to have of hers was her button tin. This tin, full of buttons of every shape, size and texture had been one of the enduring highlights of my childhood. I used to love to sift through it, wondering where each button had started life, what it had been attached to, what it had helped to hold together.

It was my Mum who had taught me to sew; to knit; to crochet. My Mum who had never lost patience in my endless stitch dropping, who casted on and off for me as this for me, in my scarf making stages, was the ‘tricky bit.’ These times of crafting still envoke fond memories of comfort, belonging, social engagement, the finished product being almost an aside.

As I began my career in Education, I keenly recognised this for need belonging in the children in my care, of finding a voice, a way to state one’s identity.

Louise – What is your approach to Education?

Headteacher Louise, from Norbury Primary school, tells us about her approach to Education.

Our support has always been a key part of helping all types of people find work, in the UK and abroad.

It’s our approach to support which starts with a free career planning session no matter your location, experience or role, we believe that quality recruitment begins with helping and understand your unique needs.

Teri-Louise – What has surprised me about teaching

Teri-Louise talks to use about what has surprised her most about being a full-time primary teacher!

Our support has always been a key part of helping all types of people find work, in the UK and abroad.

It’s our approach to support which starts with a free career planning session no matter your location, experience or role, we believe that quality recruitment begins with helping and understand your unique needs.

Daje – How is working with SEN pupils different to mainstream?

Daje tells us more about how she works with her SEN pupils on a one-to-one basis.

Our support has always been a key part of helping all types of people find work, in the UK and abroad.

It’s our approach to support which starts with a free career planning session no matter your location, experience or role, we believe that quality recruitment begins with helping and understand your unique needs.

Nicola and Jacqui from North Primary School – What do headteachers look for in new staff?

Nicola and Jacqui are from one of our schools. Here’s a short clip of them at an iday event discussing what they look for when recruiting new staff for their school.

Our support has always been a key part of helping all types of people find work, in the UK and abroad.

It’s our approach to support which starts with a free career planning session no matter your location, experience or role, we believe that quality recruitment begins with helping and understand your unique needs.

Let’s get practical: The Seven Principles of Teaching

Let’s get practical: The Seven Principles of Teaching

There are seven principles of teaching that aim to improve standards, teaching and learning. Think of them as your seven commandments, they’re relevant in every learning situation.

Principle one: Encourage contact between students and faculty

Now it might seem obvious but building relationships and rapport with students is important, it’s one of the main factors in ensuring students succeed. There are many ways to open up the communication channels and build relationships between students and yourself, including learning your students’ names, personalising feedback on students work, sharing personal experiences (within reason!) and talking to your students on a personal level.

Principle two: Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students

When you encourage team collaboration and learning, learning is enhanced. Group work improves thinking, collaboration skills as well as social skills. Ways to introduce this into your classroom are cooperative learning groups, encouraging students with different socioeconomic backgrounds to participate in classes and introduce the idea of peer tutoring every now and again.

Principle three: Encourage active learning
It’s quite widely believed that students can only learn so much when they sit in a class and listen to a teacher, students need to make learning a part of their life. Simple ways to introduce active learning in your classroom could be asking students to present their work to the class, using ‘what-if’ situations to make students think about something different and giving students problem-solving tasks to complete.
Principle four: Give prompt feedback

The best time to summarise lessons and give feedback on work is when a subject or lesson is still fresh in your students’ minds. Feedback enhances learning as it helps your students identify what they successfully learned, and what they need to look at again. Great ways to help students reflect and learn on lessons is to follow up lessons with a summary of what should have been learned, Q&A style sessions and returning grades/marking within one week.

Principle five: Emphasise time on task

As we all know, we’re always rushed for time. Lessons range from 40-55 minutes, which means you need to introduce a subject, explore it, set some work around it and summarize it in a short amount of time. Learning should be efficient. Simple ways to ensure tasks are completed efficiently are having realistic expectations, teaching time management skills and helping students set their own goals and timelines for learning and submitting work.

Principle six: Communicate high expectations

Students with little motivation, children unwilling to try and children that exceed all need to be set high expectations. Ways to set high standards are encouraging students to work hard in class, giving positive reinforcement throughout your lessons and working one on one with students that might be struggling to learn something. Encouraging students to focus on doing their best, instead of worrying about grades is a really important way to boost confidence and ensure high standards are set, too.

Principle seven: Respect diverse talents and ways of learning

It’s commonly understood that everyone has different learning styles, no two people learn something the same way. The best practice to ensure every student is covered in your lessons is to offer a range of activities that cover and complement learning styles. Encouraging students to speak up when they don’t understand is a good way to ensure no students are left behind.

These principles not only help you be the best teacher you can be not only for yourself but for your students.

Hacking Student Learning: 12 Neuroscience Tips for Teachers

Hacking Student Learning: 12 Neuroscience Tips for Teachers

No matter how different and independently minded each of us is, there’s something we all have in common. That’s the way our brains have evolved and developed. Throughout our evolutionary history, certain thought patterns and responses have developed to ensure we carry out tasks in the most efficient and productive way. These responses keep us safe from harm and ensure we capitalise on opportunities. Neuroscience is the study of such brain patterns.

By understanding the built-in ways our brains respond, we can start to ‘hack’ into the way people learn, develop and improve.

So here are 12 neuroscience principles to back up your work in the classroom.

1. Primary and Recency Effects

When we’re given a load of information, it’s far easier for us to recall the first thing and the last thing we see. These start and stop points punctuate our information intake, making it easier for our brain to stick a mental bookmark in these positions. What comes in the middle is not so easy to pick out, as it merges into the whole experience.

For example, in a football league, you’ll certainly be able to remember which teams came first and last but it won’t be as easy to reel off all the positions of the teams in between. When it comes to teaching, you can use primary and recency effects to place the most important take-home information at the start and the end of the lesson. To that effect, we’ve placed one of the most important things we remember at the end of this list.

2. Originality

Ever wondered how it is we can recall all the details of crazy stories that happened years ago but not the everyday things that happened recently? In neuroscience, this is known as salience, where our attention is drawn to what is novel.

The films we find boring are the ones that are predictable. The experiences we love are the ones where we got to try something different and unusual.

The same applies to lessons. Always conform to the same rules and approaches and the ability to remember them will become dampened. Cliche approaches will start to get tuned out because they’ve been seen and heard before and the brain assigns lesser importance to them. However, by striving to always add an original element, you will go down in school history.

3. Simplicity

It’s a very simple truth that the brain prefers to think about things that are easy to think about. This is known as cognitive fluency. As soon as any complexity is added, it’s harder for the brain to process. When faced with multiple objectives, this is distracting and it becomes harder to focus on what’s important.

The average brain is able to store between 5-9 chunks of information within in the short term. This is known as working memory. Too many chunks can cause the loss of focus and impair decision making. It’s called decision fatigue.

To illustrate this point, a taste experiment was done with jam. One tasting group had six flavours to try and another group had sixteen flavours. The group with just six choices went on to buy 33% more jam than the other group who had to decide between many more flavours. This goes to show simplicity and memory recall ease the decision-making process.

On that basis, students can be assisted by ensuring lesson structures never overload their working memory beyond capacity.

4. Contrast

We are naturally primed to spot things that stand out. From an evolutionary perspective, we are drawn to colourful fruits that want to be eaten and warned by colourful animals that really don’t. It’s the contrast of colour against backgrounds that draw our focus and guide our decisions. Of course, the converse is camouflage, where things slip by unnoticed. For example, just imagine how effective road signs would be if they blended into the surroundings. They are specially designed to stand out and be noticed.

Contrast to learning is what the shiny object is to a magpie. That’s why the design and presentation of key information are important. If the main point is to be taken in, it must visually stick out in relation to its surrounding information and be given plenty of space to shine through. That’s space in time as well as physical space. For important points to really sink in, the subconscious mind needs time to digest them before being surpassed with new information.

5. Visual

Associations Our brain makes sense of things through visuals. We don’t dream in text and numbers, we dream in pictures. If you think about it, written language is really just visual pattern recognition anyway.

Much of our memory is associative through visuals. That’s where the power of mental associations exists. It, therefore, stands to reason that if you want to leave people with a lasting impression, provide a visual experience that can easily be recalled.

Many people have discovered the benefits of using ‘Memory Palace’ techniques to associate a prominent visual with each piece of information to remember. The same premise can be used by attaching strong image associations to key topics to be remembered.

6. Relevancy

Our emotional associations can powerfully shape our actions. Personal experiences are more easily recalled than incidents that happened to others. This is known as an availability bias. We remember own actions better than we remember others.

The secret to getting people to care about something is to ensure they are able to frame it in such a way that puts them in the picture and has some sort of implication to their own life. A simple trick to achieve this is to always ask the question, ‘so what?’ So what forces you to dig down and find the reason something personally relates beyond superficial understanding from descriptions or statistics alone.

Learning new information can often be seen as a chore if not by choice. This is because it can feel like filling your head with knowledge without really knowing the reason why. We have no reason to be fond of something when we don’t understand its purpose. This is called an affect heuristic (a mental shortcut), where the degree of attention given is based on whether something is liked or disliked.

If however, we can clearly understand the relevancy of information in terms of why it matters in the real world, it no longer feels like blindly learning but feels more like preparing. Relevancy is the fuel for motivation.

7. Analogy

We deal with almost everything that happens to us by comparing ongoing events with past experiences. We don’t always know we’re doing this as it mostly occurs in our subconscious. When something new comes along, we look for this past reference to make sense of it.

That’s the beauty of analogy. Analogous situations provide a situation that we already recognise. They make the strange familiar. It’s a wonderful shortcut to learning as you just need to associate with already well-established knowledge. Tough topics become far easier to grasp once you can draw parallels with familiar situations.

Perhaps remembering a historical figure could be easier once likened to the actions of a modern celebrity? Maybe maths problems can make more sense when numbers are restated as physical objects in the real world situation? Analogies can be found by asking ‘what does this situation remind me of?’. You’ll begin to find ways of helping students relate the topic to a more familiar context to them.

8. Fun and Games

When we perform synchronised activities such as singing songs, playing games or even a simple act such as walking together, we feel more connected to the people we’re performing these activities with.

This means we begin to look out for each other more and care about each other’s achievements. That’s why playful activities in the classroom are not merely just fun but instrumental in generating a culture of positive success.

9. Repetition

We often decide the relative importance of issues by how easily they are retrieved from memory. More frequently mentioned topics persist in our memory and bubble up to the surface much more readily. This is known as the familiarity principle. It causes us to feel more positively about things we are more frequently or consistently exposed to. Ever had a song that you didn’t like at first but has since ‘grown on you’? That’s the reason. It’s a very simple principle to bring into the classroom; the more vital something is to remember, the more often you should bring it up in lessons.

10. Involvement

If you’ve ever built your own flat-pack furniture, you’ll know the effort it takes to cobble it together then the reward you feel when it’s stood in pride of place. This is called the Ikea effect. The more effort we put into an activity, the more we value it.

When it comes to the classroom, this is the power of involvement. Passive learning is less effective than when someone has a chance to experience it for themselves and take pride in the outcome. This is where project-based learning really comes into its own. Even small-scale activities can boost this sense of achievement and create a stronger connection with the lesson.

11. Positivity

Almost a third of our brain is dedicated to scanning for negatives. In evolutionary terms, this is our safety net to avoid dangerous situations. It means negative emotions and bad feedback have a stronger impact and are processed more thoroughly than good emotions and feedback. The result is we are driven more to avoid losses than achieve gains. We won’t stick our necks out if we fear disapproval or negative repercussions.

With that in mind, you can appreciate the need to place more emphasis on a positive environment. A positive environment is one where we feel freer to experiment and enjoy learning in a variety of different ways. Positivity puts us in a better frame of mind. It’s called a mood heuristic, whereby a better mood increases our enjoyment and satisfaction level. The more we enjoy learning, the more we want to learn.

12. Storytelling

Ever seen a child uninterested in a toy until another child starts playing with it? Then all of a sudden they are desperate to have it. This is called mimetic desire, which simply means, we want what others have. We are more likely to do something when we see someone else do it first.

That is the real secret of storytelling to influence behaviour. We see an action taking place and we want to put ourselves in the picture. Instead of dry information, a story narrative pulls us in an enables us to identify the situation. The stronger the story, the more importance we attach to the subject. We also become more confident when the story comes easily to mind. All that adds up to a powerful learning experience.

Now over to you. How you currently weaving these principles into your lessons? Where else could you tap into the ways students think and further influence their learning?