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Your Career• 3 Min read

31st May 2018

What makes an Ofsted ‘outstanding’ lesson?

This blog post is delivered to you by the number 1 UK teacher recruitment agency, Engage Education.

Ofsted is a non-ministerial department: the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Ofsted inspect education and care services for children and young people. 

When an Ofsted inspector visits, they’re there to report on the quality of teaching, learning and children’s care services.

Schools are graded for each area using a scale. They’re also awarded an overall grade using the same scale:

  • Grade 1 (outstanding) 
  • Grade 2 (good) 
  • Grade 3 (requires improvement) 
  • Grade 4 (inadequate)

What is the OFSTED definition of an outstanding lesson?

OFSTED defines an outstanding lesson as one where the students show clear evidence of learning. The lesson should also have no significant areas for improvement and lots of strengths. The inspector will be looking at how the students are responding to the lesson and what they are doing. The inspector will often be chatting with the students to find out what they’re thinking and what they’re learning.

  1. Inspired, engaged and motivated
  2. Challenged
  3. Making progress
  4. Keen to contribute to the lesson, asking relevant questions and debating the topic with enthusiasm
  5. Interacting productively with each other as well as the teacher
  6. Able to explain what they are doing and why
  7. Proud of their achievements during the lesson

What is the OFSTED definition of an outstanding teacher?

Outstanding teaching can manifest itself differently depending on the age of the students and the subject matter. However, the Ofsted description for an outstanding teacher is someone who can inspire their students to make exceptional progress. The best teachers inspire their students; they’ll have passionate subject knowledge and creative lesson preparation to impart this knowledge. An outstanding teacher will regularly assess their students to help them prepare and plan their future lessons effectively.

  1. Experts in their subject
  2. Involving every one of their students in the learning process
  3. Setting imaginative tasks that challenge and inspire pupils
  4. Utilising a wide range of approaches and learning resources in order to target different pupils with different abilities and learning styles
  5. Facilitating independent learning and pupil evaluation
  6. Checking progress towards objectives in a non-disruptive way

In order to be classed as outstanding, teachers also have to comply with guidelines such as:

  1. Recapping the previous lesson at the start
  2. Providing clear lesson objectives which are revisited and revised during the lesson
  3. Explaining information clearly using appropriate language
  4. Providing feedback on the progress of their pupils

Which whole-school factors can lead to outstanding teaching?

Outstanding teaching can only thrive where the leadership of the school is also effective and supportive. High-quality leadership is crucial. To back this, Ofsted have identified the characteristics of outstanding primary schools in challenging circumstances. This includes:

  • A positive culture, where praise and encouragement are given on a daily basis.
  • A school which actively listens to its students.
  • An orderly and disciplined school environment, providing dependability and purpose.
  • Showing students how to learn independently.
  • Working in partnership with other relevant professionals.
  • Encouraging confidence and high levels of self-esteem in students.
  • Building relationships with parents, families and communities

What is the OFSTED definition of outstanding enthusiasm?

Any OFSTED inspector will tell you that there is no exact recipe for an outstanding lesson; they simply know one when they see it. The one vital ingredient is enthusiasm – from both from pupils and from teachers – whose body language speaks volumes about how engaged they are.

Chief inspector of OFSTED Amanda Spielman has spoken out against the single-minded focus on exam results at the expense of a rounded, enjoyable education. An outstanding lesson is no longer measured by academic success only, but by the engagement of its pupils. As a result many teachers are turning from the traditional classroom methods in favour of more progressive learning methods, such as flipped lessons.

What are flipped lessons and do Ofsted encourage them?

A flipped lesson mimics the university learning model, in which students learn about a topic (by means of reading, online lectures or other research) prior to a class. The lesson itself takes the form of a collaborative discussion and/or activity learning, promoting a personalised learner-centred instruction model.

Flipped lessons are by no means the only method by which a teacher can create a engaged and enthusiastic classroom environment, but the success of the flipped classroom illustrates the need to combine a variety of teaching methods, beyond the classic lesson model. Prioritise your pupils’ passion for the subject equally with results and think outside the box for an outstanding OFSTED result.

How can I make my lessons OFSTED-friendly?

Establishing tasks that fulfil OFSTED’s objectives for an outstanding lesson and rehearsing them with your class is a good way to create a dynamic learning environment without needing to take risks during the inspection itself.

Getting your classes used to high risk tasks so that they become routine will go a long way towards reducing OFSTED stress as you have prepared everything beforehand.

Easy ways to incorporate OFSTED objectives into your classroom routine include:

  1. Standing at the door as your pupils enter the classroom, greeting each one and talking briefly about your objectives for the day. Don’t wait for your whole class to come in and settle down. Start preparing each pupil for learning as soon as they arrive
  2. Showing that children leave your class with questions and ideas. During the lesson, ask your pupils to write any questions or ideas you want them to take away on stickers and as they leave, take the stickers with them
  3. Standing at the door at the end of a lesson and asking each pupil to relate something they learned and how it corresponds to one of the lesson objectives before bidding them goodbye.

What happens during an Ofsted lesson inspection?

Inspectors will spend most of their time observing lessons during the school inspection and gathering evidence for their conclusions.

The inspector will not want to see any lesson plans first-hand, but they will want to see that the lesson has been well prepared for.

If possible and appropriate, the inspector will want to talk to you during the lesson. They might ask you for your opinion on the quality of teaching across the school and how well teachers are supported in relation to the safeguarding of children or in establishing high standards of behaviour. 

The focus of Ofsted inspectors is to understand the school as a whole and the impact of teaching over time, across the entire school. It’s not about the performance of an individual teacher. So they won’t be grading the quality of your teaching, instead they are recording evidence.

Inspectors can approach the observation differently — some may talk with groups of students in detail and some may read over the students’ workbooks outside the lesson time. This isn’t a test of the student’s knowledge; it is simply to understand if the school is providing proper support and learning. And they can provide feedback to the teachers in different ways too, talking to a whole key stage group or subject group. This feedback will be given before they make their final judgement. 

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