What Ofsted are searching for

Coast Guard – Search and Rescue Demonstration

Originally uploaded by U.S. Coast Guard

At last week’s ICT2012 conference I was really looking forward to hearing from the DfE and Ofsted, both of whom were sending representatives. Sadly both had to pull out, however all was not lost and the organisers of the conference managed to find a number of colleagues who had undergone recent ICT thematic inspections.

The thoughts below are an amalgam of what was actually said, what I remember being said, the hastily scribbled notes I made and a few bits of input from elsewhere. I don’t claim that they are accurate or gospel, but assume that any mistakes, errors or ommissions are mine.

Create an Open Curriculum at KS3

Rather than specifying exactly what is going to be learned and exactly how it is going be be learned, allow students to explore problems, identify strategies and form their own solutions. This is brave, and risky, and challenging. But without that challenge there is little actual learning, and what there is is superficial.


One school was praised for having an open Wifi network at a policy towards BYOD. I’m not 100% on this one personally, but I can see that allowing students to use their own mobile devices as a platform to engage and extend learning could well be a positive thing. I think that security, data protection and the risks of loss and damage are significant – not to mention the digital divide. And for me it is moot as the whole school policy of no mobiles is very unlikely to change in the immediate future.

Comparing Tools

Rather than teaching students how to create bullet points in PowerPoint, encourage them to thnk about alternative ways of presenting information to a given audience. Compare Prezi, PowerPoint and ComicLife and you’ll have students who are in a much better position when it comes to tackling real problems productively in the future.

Digital Leaders

The idea of getting students to take on some responsibility – either through completing donkey work on the VLE, sharing techniques with students, running staff INSET or even running sessions for parents – has been one I’ve been keen on since I first heard about the idea. It currently resides on my ToDo list somewhere below “plan tomorrow’s lessons” and somewhere above “solve world hunger”.


Yawn… I know, but a solid SEF and Quality Assurance document mean that you are reflecting on your department’s practices and you know where you have flaws and what you have to do to fix them. There is an element of hoop jumping (OK, a lot of hoop jumping), but both documents ultimately lead to an improvment in provision for the students. So suck it up and get it done!

Curriculum Mapping

In many schools ICT is an option at KS4, but the PoS was (and the subject as a set of knowledge and understanding) still is mandatory. One school was praised for clearly mapping the old PoS to non-ICT subjects at KS4. Another was awarded outstanding with no mention of this despite having no mapping in place. We don’t have it and while it is on my ToDo list it, probably lies only just above solving world hunger and just below dusting the ceiling…


This is a key topic right now. It’s one thing to have curriculum based eSafety lessons, to have digital leaders running INSET for parents and having clear policies in the department handbook – but that still isn’t enough to get you outstanding (apparently). Criticism of the department that did all of the above included the lack of a CEOP button on the front of the VLE. All schools should (I’m not sure if it’s mandatory, but I think it will help a lot) have someone who has attended the free CEOP half day workshop. The issue is not just one of “have you taught it”, but more of “is it embedded and understood at every level within the school”. Do the teachers know how to deal with students accessing inappropriate material? Do the students know the likely consequences? Are staff and students alike aware of their digital footprint? Potentially, it never stops, but the odd lesson on not sharing your password and not giving your phone number out simply won’t cut it, is the message.

And that’s about it for now. Very little mention in there about teaching and learning, but I think that’s because that applies to everyone. It’s not that it doesn’t need saying, but here we’re looking at the ICT thematic elements. Outstanding teaching, learning, pace, progress, measurement, awareness, subject knowledge, behaviour and all of that other stuff is still essential. This just has to sit on top.

But remember, as gruelling as all this sounds, if it were easy we’d all be going home at 3, collecting our gold plated pensions and live our lives oblivious to what stress really is 😀

What ‘progress’ looks like

11/02/2007 (Day 73) – Evolution

Originally uploaded by Kaptain Kobold

I mentioned previously that there is a big push on “Learning and Progress” at the moment in school. Much discussion has been had and a colleague (we’ll call him Steve) and I sat down for a full PD Day to thrash out what a “learning lesson” looks like.

We both wrote lesson plans, observed lessons and ultimately I nicked most of Steve’s ideas. The emphasis, really, is on checking in with students during the lesson to see how they’re getting on. Sounds pretty simple, really, but without a bit of conscious effort it’s easily missed.

So here is the “learning lesson” I ran with a Y9 class this week:

We are part way through a unit of work on a Grand Designs topic – designing houses, creating them in Sketchup, tweaking a model to make the most profit, etc. We are now on to the promotional part of the unit and we need to start selling some houses.

As students enter they each find a mini-whiteboard at their desks, complete with a pen and eraser. On the main whiteboard is an instruction to write down 3 adjectives to describe the students’ houses.

This actually sparked some debate as to what an adjective is, so I’ve already learned something about the students’ level of understanding in terms of the literacy aspect.

After a minute or two the students held their whiteboards up and we quickly looked at what worked well (e.g. elegant, spacious, etc.) and what didn’t (e.g. big, cheap, almost finished).

We looked at a couple of estate agent web pages to see what language is used (interestingly spotting an apartment that was described as ‘spacious’ despite being smaller that the classroom we were using) and students then used a word processor to write a paragraph to describe/promote each of their houses (a starter home, bungalow and mansion).

I circulated to give tips and feedback – then the learning checkpoint. Three volunteers came out to be given a whiteboard and pen each. Three more volunteers read out one of the paragraphs they had written. In between each one we had a “Strictly” like judging moment complete with scores (someone always chooses “SEVEN!”) and feedback.

Although we didn’t read out every paragraph, every student was involved and engaged – and they were all comparing what others had written with their own. A couple more minutes to tweak what they had written, then save and change again.

The next task was to capture some images of the houses we had created in Sketchup. We discussed artistic style and 3-point perspective (contextual curriculum link with Art) before taking screengrabs from different angles and also a couple of fly-through animations.

To finish up students opened their Open Office Impress (think PowerPoint) slideshow (we’ve been spending 5-10 minutes on this each lesson), imported a screengrab from the last section and wrote about both what we had done and why we had done it.

Next lesson we’re using iWeb to create a website to promote the houses – using the paragraphs and images collected this week.

The only real differences between this lesson and how I would have tackled it last year is that I would have put less emphasis on the use of language and been less considerate in the way I check to see how well students are doing. Learning and progress is NOT about recording and assessing formally every 20 minutes. It’s about making sure that students are actually… making progress! If they already know it at the start then there’s no point, if they haven’t twigged part-way through then you’re doing it wrong and if they don’t know something new by the end then you’ve just wasted one of only 30-odd lessons you’ll get with them.

That’s a pretty long post, and pretty wordy. Promise the next one will be a little shorter.

Thoughts on observations

Ouch 195/365

Originally uploaded by Blue Square Thing

Bear with me for a minute.

When I was 6 my grandma died. That was the first time I had to face the concept of death and, I’ll be honest, it scared me. A lot.

It bothered me for a long time, and I remember a year later being on a ride at the Epcot Center[sic] being absolutely paralysed with fear wondering what oblivion would be like.

Over time, of course, I came to accept that death is a part of life and to get on with living it without having to deal with panic attacks every day or two. So why is this relevant?

I also remember a time when, having been accepted for my PGCE and still working in a call centre I used to read the TES from cover to cover. I had a similar (although less extreme) moment of terror when I realised (at a conceptual level) that my lessons would be observed, my teaching examined, my qualities as a human being ticked off. Sheer horror.

Of course most practising teachers know that this isn’t the way it works in real life. Perhaps I’ve been lucky in where I work but my observations have always been done the right way. They’ve not all been outstanding (in fact I don’t think I’ve ever had an unqualified ‘outstanding’ rating) but, as my Head Teacher said in a staff meeting this morning – observations are not a stick to beat you with.

All of my observations have been aimed at looking at what I do well and identifying areas that I can improve on. They’ve never been used to tell me off, they’ve never been used to demotivate or humiliate and they’ve never been used to take privileges or status away from me.

This is especially relevant as I’m going to have to manage performance reviews this term and so I’ll be the one doing the observations, the one making the notes, the one providing the feedback. Luckily I don’t work with anyone who would ever need a stick to beat them with – here’s hoping I can take the examples I’ve been given and use these observations as opportunities to see excellent teaching, excellent learning, excellent progress – and if we see one or two routes to make things even better then that’s no bad thing.