In November I posted a copy of an email to one of my SLT, regarding my issues with the lesson observation process that my school insists on using (‘School Management Makes Teaching Impossible’). This email prompted the manager in question to come and see me to discuss the issues raised.
Following this less than satisfactory (for me) meeting, the manager sent me a short, curt email. She hadn’t really responded to my questions and, even worse than that, was now saying that I would be observed next term by her and another (even more senior) leader.
Curiouser and curiouser, as she had (verbally) been at great pains to assure me that none of this was a ‘capability issue’. What is it, I wonder?
I decided to give myself time to think carefully before responding. Below is the text of the email I will be sending her tomorrow:
Thank you for your email dated 10th December.
You did refer to observation criteria of two other schools that have achieved outstanding, during our meeting. However, you also confirmed that both schools were inspected in 2012, prior to the publication of the new Ofsted handbook in September 2013. I didn’t actually read either of the lesson criteria pro formas that you brought with you to our meeting, so I am unfortunately unable to form a direct comparison. I accept that **** can use whatever criteria they wish, when observing lessons. I do still question whether we should be employing the use of a model that even OFSTED themselves would consider outdated.
Please also note that OFSTED further clarified their guidance for lesson observations just before Christmas. I can send you a copy of this, if you haven’t already seen it.
You mentioned that I would be observed by two members of the SLT next time. If you recall, I said that I didn’t understand why I needed to be observed by you and another senior manager. Could you please explain again the reasoning behind this decision? I have requested, and would like to request again, that any observer of my lessons be prepared to deliver a model lesson with the same group. Will this be the case?
I’m not sure you have answered the queries I made in my original email to you: I asked you to confirm what the process would be if I were to go on to achieve a second ‘requires improvement’ judgement in my next observation? I also asked if you could remind me what circumstances would lead to me requiring more frequent observations? Could you please respond to these?
I queried whether other factors regarding planning, marking displays etc all count towards the overall grading judgement of a teacher. You confirmed that they did. I’m pleased to see you confirm this again in your email. As the new OFSTED handbook outlines, Inspectors are now advised to be extremely wary of the damaging effects of one-off ‘snapshot’ judgements of teachers; they are now expected to form a whole picture, based on criteria such as you mention.
During our meeting, you stressed to me that this wasn’t a ‘capability issue’. Could you please re-confirm that in writing? The fact that you made such a statement suggests that you don’t feel that I have any competency issues. This makes this whole matter slightly confusing: if this isn’t an issue over competency, I think it is only fair that I ask what it is all about?
I would like to re-affirm that I am more than happy to go and see other **** teachers teach and share good practice with them. I must stress here that I have never said anything regarding the usefulness, or otherwise of the ‘support programme’. I did say that I was concerned about participating in such a programme with the ‘requires improvement’ association attached.
I know that the outcome of all of this is unlikely to be a happy one. However, I do feel it is important that I continue to raise such issues. I see a lot of schools are now trialling other, more developmental means of observing lessons. I am also delighted to see some are moving away from graded observations altogether. It can surely only be of benefit to teachers everywhere if this trend continues. We all need to continually improve and refine our practice. As I have said before, it’s hard to see how such judgemental observations support this. On the contrary, by knocking the confidence of otherwise perfectly confident staff; the effect is surely counter-productive?
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