Category: OFSTED

A baptism of fire.


The new year is often a time of reflection and review. Many of us took part in the Nurture posts and the Teacher5aday pledges. Promising to make big or small changes to our routines or lives that hopefully will make life better for our families and work life balance. Make us feel happier more fulfilled or just different.

I did the same and made a major change. A new job; what’s more a January start.

Now people told me, yes the dreaded ‘they’. It would be hard. A mid year start. Not only did I have to battle the weather, the dark mornings and nights; Its that hard slog term, where the reality of exams is starting to rear its head for year 11, pressure is mounting for  departments. SLT’s are getting twitchy. Staff are getting tired, sick, sick and tired.

I also took on a promotion as well. Not one for doing thing by halves as you all know, I included  a 55 minute commute to a brand new area, to a school that was in RI.

Hey if I’m going to give myself a challenge then why the hell not. I was in desperate need of a change. New scenery, new perspective. One where I would be utilised to my potential. Where I would be stretched, forced to think beyond what I thought I could do.

They had A levels.

First day starts with me ending up presenting at the end of the CPD mini teachmeet style on my classroom practice, don’t know whether this was by design or just me being too keen but what the hell, I’ve arrived. New girl on the block. But I’ve already realised that I’ve got my work cut out for me with my department and haven’t even met the kids yet!.

So my plan of attack is first half of term, easy my self in, play is low key (for those that know me pick yourselves up) get to establish myself with the kids. I take the great advice from Amy Jeetley and Patric Ottely-O’Connor who gave up their time on the phone to talk me down off the ceiling one evening when I had a melt down realising that I thought bit off more that I could chew over the Christmas holidays. Put that into practice. Set about establishing my routines. Follow my plan and learn as much as I can as quick as I can about the school from as many different sources as possible.

First week done. Blur of meetings, tutor groups, seating plans, all the usual. Monday passes, Tuesday arrives and then an urgent email, calling for all staff to meet after school……

Can only mean one thing…..  O F S T E D. Yep they were arriving on Wednesday. You are kidding me. I’ve been there all of 7 days and they are going to descend on us for not only a full Section 5 but there will be 7 inspectors on the team.

An inspector to inspect the head inspector, and a trainee inspector to watch this inspection plus the other 5 in the team. Well talk about the school moving into overdrive.

The school was ready, they were prepared like a well oiled machine the new head was incredible, inspiring, she just asked the staff to do what they do best, no panic, no long lecture, no edicts or demands. Appreciation for what was to come, free lunch laid on every day because she knew we were working late into the night.

All support staff stayed every evening including TA’s secretaries, reprographics, data team, printing off sims data, seating plans, SEN data, photocopying for us teachers, so we could focus on writing the lesson plans, annotating seating plans if not done (i.e. me as I’d only just go there), making sure resources were ready for those that needed extra colours, over lays, etc.) Caretakers stayed to lock up when we were ready to go, the school was open from 6am nothing was too much trouble. To feel like the whole school was pulling together was incredible.

I was checked on by numerous teachers who I had no idea who they were but were just passing and asking if I was ok, did I need anyone to do anything. What could I do, just make sure I taught the best lessons I could under the circumstances. Preparation was key.

The wonderful Crista Hazel, supported me through the Tuesday evening with wise words and encouragement even telling me off when it was time to go home, and eat and sleep.

Wednesday arrived and so did the inspectors to introduce themselves and to say they looked liked ’50 shades of OFSTED’. Did they really all have to wear grey!! and all start with “HI I’m a HMI Ofsted Inspector,” yeah I think we worked that one our for ourselves!.

Anyway to cut it short, I was finally observed on Thursday P3 a double lesson with year 13 which has 4 students in it a Btec lesson where none of them plan on following a science career, they are so quiet you wouldn’t know they were there. I won’t bore with details. But it was OK suffice to say I have to inject more enthusiasm for science into the students. Yeah good one.

I must just say one thing our head sent out an email on Wednesday night just to keep up focus, again it one of pure encouragement, reminding us to take care of ourselves, eat, sleep and keep working as well she knew we were. No long missive of what we weren’t doing. No damning reports of what went wrong on that day. It was such an uplifting email to get at 8pm as I was still writing out my lesson plans for the next day, it renewed me with even more determination not to let the side down, not matter that I’d only been there a few days.

Needless to say we got through and the report was GOOD and we have moved forward and everyone was happy. Well almost.

Science didn’t do so well overall.

Hence there went my quiet intro to the job. Here was me thinking I would be able to get a handle on the characters work out what my role would look like and get a grip on some of the big jobs and small ones, in my own way. NOPE. SLT not happy so my new role began with a vengeance.

I am conducting learning conversations twice a week, book monitoring’s, coaching of a member of one of the more difficult members of the team, (thanks gang) plus head of department about to go on maternity. A Science week to organise, a school trip to organise for disadvantaged year 9s. Intervention tracking for year 10. ISA planning for year 10 at some point. Getting my head around PiXL and start using it. Rewrite the new curriculum for year 9. Support the new ingoing head of department.

Get to grips with under performing year 11 classes and triple year 10 class and get them back on track. Plus teach Physics and Chemistry to both year 11 and 9 which is out of my subject. Ensure new marking policy is being implemented across the department. Pick up some of the primary liaison work from the outgoing head of department possibly if the timetable works. Liaise with new HOD to ensure that when the part timer who has also just told us that she is now pregnant leaves we manage to replace her with a qualified scientist as the impact of not having specialist is major and one we cannot afford to impact our results.

Sort out my tutor group who currently hate me (and that is true). Deal with some very low self esteem year 9’s who believe that they can’t do anything so there is not point in even trying.

Oh amongst all this almost forgot, we had the departmental performance review in the last two weeks of term. Which is your performance observation. So you have a 48 hour window where SLT can drop in and observe any lesson you are teaching during that time. My lessons were the exactly the same ones that OFSTED were here.  I had 9 lessons to prepare for. Last two days of half term. Wednesday and Thursday. No pressure there then.

My first official observation with SLT of the school since interview. Luckily for me they choose my underperforming, low ability year 11s, period 1, Wednesday morning. One pupil just returned after 5 weeks in a pru! ( So nice don’t you think)

Previous lesson they all had a test just had results,  not a happy bunch as realised how much I was pushing and expecting them to work. Data drop just been done, not happy with their levels or commitment to learning I’d given them either.

But we’d had a chat and were moving on as he’s walking in (by the way he’s Head of Maths). Lesson went well I think. Pupils up taking part, asking questions, completing work. That was up until I stood on my desk, and was ready to do a demo. I’m saying to kids, goggles on else I can’t do the demo. I’m waiting, they are looking around, and notice Sir doesn’t have his on, so they all shout at him to get his on. I hold my breathe, he gets the goggles put them on.

Result….. nailed it. Routines established…. Sieve my custard over the Bunsen,  flames hit the roof, nearly loose eyebrows, kids in hysterics, whopping, oohing, respiration and combustion, compared, more group worked carried out. Questions asked, answered. No funny business; troublesome lad, brought into line by others. Job done.!

End of first half of term has come. Who knows what next term has in store. But if this one is to go by. It will be just as exciting.

And breathe.




“It wasn’t my fault, they didn’t want to play today, it was his fault, if only I hadn’t said what I’d said”. This is how we often hear children speak when they did something they weren’t proud of, or they realised they weren’t up to the mark and expectations hadn’t been met. But is this something we as teachers should be saying? Why? I hear you ask… Well pull up a chair, get a cuppa and a slice of cake and I’ll tell you.

On Wednesday we had the school improvement partner in. Now we have recently been upgraded from the old satisfactory to the new good with outstanding management. But we still pay for this specialist service to come in and tell us how to get better. I received an email on Monday to say that she would be popping in for a bout 15 minutes to see my teaching, period 2 on Wednesday. My heart sank. Bottom set year 10. Predicted E’s with most of the characters from my group from hell last year.

I have worked on the hyperactive child to get her to sit in her chair, the lad who never has a pen, now knows where he can get one in my class without asking. The school refuser well he turns up,when he feels like it. The budding nail artist…. Well say no more, you know the characters and yes I even have one who paints in her eyebrows!!!

Anyway she is looking for the magic progress, stretch and challenge. I plan my lesson as normal, but think I’ll try it out on my set 2 year 10 first on the Tuesday. And yep they all get on with the tasks and all make progress, learn something new and consolidate previous knowledge. Hence with some major tweaking I simplify the tasks to ensure they are differentiated down but still have challenge and I think that I’m ready.

I will give a brief synopsis of the lesson and then you can make your mind up about the result!

Meet the class at the door, uniform issues are rife and yes school refuser and for the sake of ease I shall call “lad” from now on is here. After much discussion uniform is sorted and in he bumbles, all 6ft 17 stone of him, and he seems out of sorts already.  Before I can start he shouts across the room at quiet girl! So warning number one on the board.

Up comes the starter, taking a leaf out of @lazyteacher after our amazing inset night, I use a “What does the human body have in common with a car?” Knowing we are doing B1 of the OCR GCSE. Healthy bodies etc, and C1 combustion, nice link I think!

Now here’s the problem that magic word ‘think’ they struggled to even come up with any ideas until prompted. “Lad” decided to start pulling faces at another student and I catch him, warning number 2. At this point he does the usual, ‘I didn’t do nuffink miss’ but I choose to ignore this and move on. Eventually a few ideas were forthcoming and I introduced the main part of the lesson.

A circus of tasks where each task was taken from an exam paper, and this fed into a revision mind map made of pictures and a few words.

The idea being, they do the task, and this reminds them of the concepts from each module and they annotate the Mind map.  Simple I think??!!!

“Lad” has decided now not to talk to me, at all, he point blank refuses to look at me or answer any directed questions even after prompting, using @lazyteachers method of if I get “dunno” then get some one else to give the answer and go back. But still nothing. So now am panicking anytime now they will arrive.

I’m in full flow explaining the task, in the three walk.  Director of specialism, acting head of faculty and school improvement partner. To be faced with a silent class, who are not moving about, engaging or doing anything, coz they think laddie is funny!!!

I realise and try to re-group, tackle each pair, encourage them to go and select an activity, move about, start thinking and do something.

What progressed was a rapid fall into panic, they didn’t talk to the SIP, couldn’t tell her what we’d done, she looked at books but they wouldn’t engage in any fashion about what they’d learnt or were doing.  I couldn’t send him out as he wasn’t disruptive, he wasn’t disturbing others’ learning only his own.

By this time I had realised I was in the proverbial!  They left, I carried on to the end and then waited for the inevitable.

By now you get the picture. Requires improvement was the verdict.

But is this because I am a poor teacher, or is it because some how these children have lost interest in education? They don’t see the relevance of being forced through a science GCSE, when most are struggling to write In full sentences. They have no aspirations

How do we engage and motivate these children? How do we generate the importance, when the next day laddie is off timetable playing rugby for the school and being applauded for his performance. Yet he can’t complete 6 tasks in an hour.

This lesson shocked me to the very core of my being, the feedback came verbally at lunch time. She believed the challenge was too high and it should have been more differentiated, smaller chunks. They should have got up out of their seats, instead of me giving out work which they didn’t complete.

Is it the system that is flawed, that you can make a judgment on 15-20 mins whether students are making progress when I’ve spent 4 weeks installing the rules for learning.

Is this a behaviour for learning issue that needs addressing from primary, or are kids forced into education so young that they have lost the fun and pleasure of learning because they are being tested beyond all reasonable expectation?

Or was I just having a bad day as were the kids?  I don’t know the answers, and if anyone does can you let me know.

So I am licking my wounds, and reflecting on how do I get these kids through the exam but make it worth while and help turn out responsible, effective decent citizens.

I have since had a long discussion with @musicmind who has reassured me with many things and that I should use the ‘unpick it, unpack it, post it, send it, share it’ method and I am embracing my own evaluation of learning and teaching and continually seeking to be the best that I can be. I do believe I am a good teacher and that I instil the will of learning in my students – maybe this time I should just vent away the dark moment, think of the glorious days and tell myself – ‘welcome to the world of education where all things great and small CAN make a difference!’

Lesson slides

A week of two halves (Part 1)….

I sit here reflecting on my week of two halves.

I arrived at school thinking about the next two weeks of hard work ahead to get to half term. Still feeling a little bruised from my bullets of last week, but determined to do better this week.

I was sitting at the desk, planning for the week ahead while my Head Teacher was teaching the PSE class of year 9’s that I take over next term once I have finished my NQT. Now I try not to check my email to often as it so much of a distraction, but I thought I’d have a peek, and there it was, a message from the Head’s PA – Urgent.

It was a the call everyone is waiting for with dread…… HMI Ofsted called to speak to HT and will be ringing back after the lesson. Right so this is it, the CALL, it had to be OFSTED are coming.

First of all I picked my stomach up off the floor and thought about what was ahead of me. Two days of hell, nine lessons over two days where each and every lesson has to be planned to the max, etc..Firstly I had to teach the last two lessons of the day, without loosing the plot.

Finally about 1.15pm I check the email again and yes they are on their way, a meeting was called for 4pm to discuss the way forward.

I attended the meeting and the HT gave us the pep talk, yet you could see the worry in his eyes.

I returned to my room to re look at my lessons for Tuesday, I had luckily  prepared my data and seating plans so they were ready for scrutiny, I checked all my groups to make sure I had the IEP’s and everything ready for the big day.  I could identify the groups in my classes, use SISRA for checking on the progress of my tutor group, and any other piece of data I could find. (For those of you who know me Data is not my area of expertise, but I do my best to understand the myriad of graphs and comparisons that are sent out every six weeks. Although just to say CAP 1 hadn’t been done yet).

We were told that we didn’t need to do lesson plans but were encouraged to prepare them as it looked better to cover our behinds in case things went wrong! I worked until gone 9pm, making sure the room was as I wanted it, resources were printed, lessons differentiated, co-operative learning was in place, on and on the list went.

Finally, exhausted I returned home  to check my tweets, and there they were…. the support and twitter love from the collective that are amazing teachers out there. Re assuring me to be the best I can be, just do what I do normally, remember it’s their privileged to be in my room, the support was overwhelming and I was re-energised.

A recommendation from @Ljrn42 to get a play list of motivational songs, instigated another frantic tweet, so the call went out and I was inundated with ideas from @LGolton, @KevBartle, and pearls of wisdom from @Gwenelope, @hgalinoshea, @scieteachcremin, @aegilopoides, @hrogerson, @sciencetchr12,  and many others. I compiled my list and was ready. Went off to bed fairly late, alarm set for 6am.

At 4.30am I thinking that I wouldn’t get any sleep, as I seemed to have tossed and turned all night; I would get up, however the next thing I know the alarm went off and it was 6am time to get up.

Arrived a school early, prepped and pumped after listening to my OFSTED play list,  and I start my day. Firstly the meeting of  the  inspectors in the hall for a impromptu staff briefing. (Here is where I loose it a bit  they traipse in looking like a bunch of Hobbits, all black suits, and clip boards and stern faces.)

Lesson one, passed by, lesson two, lesson three still no sign, lessons are going well, most of the science department have been done, and still no sign, PPA time arrives; so now the planning for Wednesday begins, which is my worst day. Period 5 passes and still no visit.

I attend the literacy meeting with the inspectors where as the only NQT in the room I try not to look too inexperienced or nervous, get to say my bit and hope it made sense and was in line with the SEF!  That I had only had chance to revisit in the 15  minutes before the meeting. I leave thinking I had hopefully done my bit and worrying about tomorrow.

I retire home about 7ish thinking that Wednesday will be hell as it is 5 lesson day for me, plus a break duty and a bus duty to boot. Two KS4 lesson, with inactive year 10’s and 11’s,  with an interesting year 9 group and the group from hell. So I was worried about how Day 2 would go.

I have a quick check on the email upon arriving home and there it was, an email from Head Teacher, which now in hind sight I realise was done in good faith and encouragement. However was more of the kind of what aren’t we doing and make sure lessons had these covered for tomorrow. This had the effect of sending me into tail spins. Re looking at all my lessons and wondering what have I missed, what haven’t I covered, what could I be doing better.

Once more twitter comes to the rescue and I retire to bed, for another restless night ahead of me.

Wednesday arrives and no amount of rock music seems to raise the blood or confidence, just a deep down feeling of dread, I read through the tweets to encourage me. SLT are looking harassed, worried, exhausted and its not even 8am yet.

The rumors are flying around that Science will be first and especiallythat they are after Biology for a change. I take my tutor group into assembly, hoping the rumor mill was wrong. I  hot foot it back to my little lab to find a ‘hobbit’ waiting outside my room. She introduces herself as coming to see what I will be doing,(no kidding). Here I get the chance to point out my knowledge of my 10 set 2 group, my dyslexic pupil and one FSM in this group, I let her know what went before as I had half the group the day before with many missing as they were on a trip.

I won’t go into the ins and out of the lesson as that is for another post but it passed by and 35 minutes later she left, I sighed a huge sigh and thought that was my bit done.

Lesson 2, in come a rather hyped year 9 ready for fitness testing in the quad, first part of the lesson passes well, everyone on task and I check the clock, only 25 minutes left of the lesson to go and we’d been told that they were doing 25-30 min observations and I think well as they had seen me period 1 then I was done and dusted.

Oh how wrong, at exactly 22 minutes to go before the end, the door opens and in walks ‘the meerkat’, inspector number 2, to say  that I nearly passed out was an understatement. But on I went. I have never been so happy to hear the break bell in all my time.

Feedback was given for that lesson and it was a ‘GOOD’ lesson and I was relived and waited till lunch to hear the verdict on the first, which again this time was a ‘STRONG GOOD’. Upon reflection I should have asked loads of questions as to what I could do to make it even better but brain was in overload by this time and nerves were so frayed I couldn’t’ even construct a sensible sentence.

The rest of the lessons, passed by with an ever watchful eye on the door as who knows they could be back again. But we got to lunch to be told no more observations and they were now deliberating.

I conducted my bus duty and returned to the lab to plan my cover work for period 4 Thursday and all day Friday as the other half of my week wasn’t too far away.

I got to be there when the meetings concluded and it looked like SLT were happy with the outcomes and the school could hold its head up and say we did OK!

I went home exhausted and now wondering how was I to get through the next half of the week, with out completely running out of steam?…..

So on to the second half of the week… To be continued.