Sunday, 2 February 2014

Ofsted 2014 Handbook, Guidance and Governance Matters

Ofsted’s Inspection handbook and subsidiary guidance was published yesterday and caused quite a stir! The Clerk to Governors very kindly did all the hard work for us and highlighted the changes in the Handbook and the Subsidiary Guidance. The first thing which caught my eye was the following additional paragraph in the guidance.
5. Do not insist that there must be three years worth of data, or that these data must show good progress or achievement, before judging a school’s overall effectiveness to be good overall. A school can be good if teaching, leadership and management, and behaviour and safety are good, and if there is sufficient evidence that progress and/or achievement of current pupils are good also. This is often the case when a school is improving from requires improvement, serious weaknesses or special measures. However, inspection reports must state clearly if this is the case.
Governors should also make a note of the Guidance where Floor Standards are mentioned as we need to be aware of these for our particular school.
The changes which have really excited teachers concern teaching styles. Andrew Old has commented on this here. The guidance says that inspectors must not give an impression that Ofsted favours a particular teaching style. It also makes the point that inspectors should not criticise “teacher talk” or always expect to see “independent learning”. Andrew makes a point that governors should make sure that their school’s teaching and learning policy reflects this guidance.
Then we come on to Behaviour. The Handbook states
49. Inspectors should must ensure that they observe pupils in a range of situations outside normal lessons to evaluate aspects of behaviour and safety, for example
  • at the start and finish of the school day
  • during lunchtime, including in the dining hall, and break or play times
  • during assemblies and tutor periods
  • when moving between lessons.
The fact that “should” has been replaced with “must” is very important!
The Guidance states,
68. ….. Often, the grade for behaviour and safety is a grade higher than overall effectiveness. Where this is the case, reports will be given additional scrutiny. Please make sure that sufficient evidence is gathered to warrant the grade awarded.
It goes on to state
72. Inspectors should also take account of identify disruptive behaviour of any kind. This may be overt, for example, persistent ‘shouting out’, or pupils ‘talking over the teacher’, or persistentarguing back’, or low level disruption , for example, through continuous chatter., not bringing the right equipment to lessons, not having books or doing homework, pupils arriving late to lessons, pupils chatting when they are supposed to be working together or pupils being slow to settle to their work and so on. It may also be more covert, taking the form, for example, of quiet refusal reluctance from a number of pupils to participate in group work or to cooperate with each other.
The above, in my opinion, has placed more emphasis on behaviour than was the case previously. As you can see inspectors are now required to observe students in different settings and identify disruptive behaviour of any kind. Again, this has implications for governors. Are we confident we know what behaviour is like in our school? How many of us know what behaviour is like when our students are being taught by supply/cover staff? In my experience that is when behaviour tends to be at its worst.
As far as governance is concerned, there aren’t that many changes to comment on. However, I will point out that the Guidance states that (this is not new)
102. Inspectors should meet with as many governors during an inspection as is possible
This is often not the case. Inspectors have been known to specify the number of governors they would like to meet. If you would like to take along more governors than the inspectors have asked for, stick to your guns and quote the above to them!
The part of the Guidance which deals with School judged as Requires Improvement has an interesting addition. Where governance in these schools is ineffective and specific issues regarding provisions for students eligible for pupil premium have been identified, then the Guidance states that an external review of the school’s use of pupil premium as well as an external review of governance should be recommended (para 107). In the past inspectors would have recommended an external review of governance with an additional focus on use of pupil premium. This emphasises how much importance is placed on the school’s use of pupil premium. This, again, is one of the issues we as governors need to come to grips with. We need to be absolutely certain we know how the school spends this money and the impact this has. The following additional paragraph highlights this.
109. Even where leadership and management is judged to be good, inspectors should use their professional judgement to determine whether a recommendation for an external review of the school’s use of the pupil premium would benefit the school.
So, leadership and management (which includes governance) may be good but inspectors may still recommend an external review of how you use pupil premium. For school placed in categories of concern, the Guidance states that
    112.Where leadership and management is found to be inadequate and governance is weak or failing, the lead inspector will write, by means of an email, to the responsible authority…………. Inspectors should also consider that, whenWhen writing to the responsible authority, the recommendations for actions couldwill normally also include an external review of governance and may also include an external review of the school’s use of the pupil premium.
The addition of “by means of an email” is presumably to ensure that the responsible authority is made aware as soon as possible! It should be noted that recommendations for actions WILL NORMALLY include an external review rather than could include as was the case previously. Again, they may also recommend an external review of how pupil premium is spent.
So, although there wasn’t a great deal of change as far as governance is concerned, there is still enough there which we need to be aware of and take notice of.
A last thought. The Guidance has deleted the following
114. Unless a significant concern is identified, there is no need to spend excessive amounts of time checking policies and detailed procedures and protocols
Deleting the sentence that there’s no need to spend time checking policies, to me, looks almost like a double negative!
With thanks to Shena Lewington whose hard work made this post possible.

iPads in the classroom?

The use of iPads in the classroom is becoming more common in many of our schools. There has been much debate about the amount of time are children are spending in front of screen, and whether by digitalising our classrooms we are preventing children from learning fundanemtal skills such as writing. I believe in moderation iPads can be a great tool to support learning. Many teachers feel they are becoming an invaluable tool thanks to the ease of using them, the functions of them and the apps that can support many areas of learning. For children they are exciting and engaging and may support the learning of children reluctant to pick up a pencil.
This little guy seems intrigued by the iPad, more so than by the books on the nearby shelves at a recent German book fair. Could it be that technology and tykes are a perfect mix for learning?
A whole host of apps are available and I thought I mention three thhatt I have come across thatwould be good  for supporting learning in the classroom when used on an iPad.
The first app I came across was called Pocket Zoo. This app allows children to view real animals in real zoos via webcams from the comfort of the classroom. This is great fun and could be used to support learning in many areas for example, Understanding the World in the Early Years or Science and Geography in Key Stages 1 and 2. Children can also see virtual zoos and learn many facts about animals and their care. This is a fairly easy app to use and would be great for children who have never been to the zoo before. This is only available from the App store and there is a charge for downloading, but I feel it is an App that could be useful and lots of fun.

Garage Band is an app that allows children to play instruments by touching the screen. There are a wide a variety of instruments to choose fro, but I did feel this was an app better suited to older children. It is quite fiddly and may be quite difficukt for little learners. Again there is a small charge to download this app from the App store. A more suitable app for younger children is Easy Beats. This is a more basic app and allows cildren to create a four bar piece of music. It also teaches them how to create a music loop. This could be a good way of teaching music using ICT. It has some quite good reviews on the internet and is a recommended app from the music module of the Early Years Eucation course.

Another positive for using iPads in the classroom is that it may reduce the amount of paper used in the classrrom making it a little more environmentally friendly. iPads are also great for being inclusive. Children with a physical disability may find these easier to use than traditional pencil and paper, and with the additon of a voice recording app or video recording app work can be completed in a variety of ways.
I got to experience using an iPad in an art lesson and it was fantastic! So good I blogged about it! It was great to be able to create a piece of art through sound, photos, vidoe or simple drawing. One of the nicest parts is that if you get it wrong or want to make changes, it doesn’t neccesarily mean you have to completely start again! Just erase the part you need to without ruining your whole piece of work.
I have seen many children using iPads and they are often excited and very engaged by using them. It is something different for them to try and produces very different results to thise they normally achieve. Many schools are now introducing this into schools and providing one iPad per pupil.I read about a school in Bolton who are providing an iPad to each of their 800 pupils. Whilst this may appear to be a good idea I was surprised the children will be allowed to take them home allowing them to communicate with teachers outside of school hours. I would also worry about the potential for them to become lost or broken. Read the full article here: This is however a secondary school, so I am not sure whether this would be the same circumstances if it was a primary school.
I found another article online discussing a primary school that had given every pupil an iPad. I totally agree with the issue it means more children can have access to the Internet or computers at the same time than previously, but I am slightly concerned by the admission that they are used in almost every lesson. I would think this may start to take away the excitement of being told to get an iPad to use if it is an everyday occurrence. To read the full article follow this link:
I think there are positives and negatives for using iPads in the classroom, but I really believe the key is moderation and management of the amount of time children use them so that other learning skills and play skills are also allowed to fully develop.

Why move to the cloud?

There are a number of benefits of moving a school’s learning resources and infrastructure online – as long as you choose your Cloud services provider carefully. But more of that later on.

Here are the advantages of adopting a Cloud-based approach for your school:

Reduced storage costs: Storage costs are falling all the time, but when you’re talking about storing the data and work of lots of pupils, there is a significant drawback to using physical storage. For example, the fact that you may find that you don’t have enough storage to meet demand in the short-term. It makes much more sense to subscribe to services that can provide just the right amount of storage, whenever you need it. This means that you pay for what you are actually using rather than paying for what you think you might need.

Another benefit is interoperability, especially in large campuses. According to an article by Jeff Dunn for Edudemic, “Cloud computing encourages IT organizations and providers to increase standardisation of protocols and processes so that the many pieces of the cloud computing model can interoperate properly and efficiently.”
It’s common that a Cloud service provider can offer a higher specification software than an individual school could afford. For example, Microsoft Office 365 for Education provides online versions of Word and Excel free of charge.
By the same token, obtaining software as a service rather than purchasing it outright means that you are not faced with the need to worry about upgrading the software or even licensing issues necessarily, because that can all be handled as part of the cloud service package. In other words, the administrative burden on a school can be significantly reduced.
Also, of course, not having software installed on your own network means that you avoid having to concern yourself over physical space on a drive or memory upgrades.
A huge advantage from the pupils’ and teachers’ point of view of course is that pupils can share their work with each other and their teacher, and can access resources and data from anywhere at any time – without some of the complications that can sometimes arise from using a proprietary learning platform.
In principle, also, cloud storage offers a secure way of keeping data. If the school goes up in smoke, or, less dramatically, thieves break in overnight and steal the server, your data will still be there up in the cloud.

Another consideration is whether the cloud service you are using for storing pupil (and teacher) data conforms to EU data protection law. A useful guide in this area is the Information Commissioner’s booklet called Guidance on the use of cloud computing, available from the ICO’s website at The advice given in it is aimed at organisations in general, but it does contain information of direct relevance to schools.
Cloud computing offers many advantages to schools, as we have seen, but when considering moving to the cloud, and which cloud service provider to go with, schools need to be worldly-wise as their corporate counterparts.