Reflections on our Ofsted pilot

In December 2018 our school was approached to take part in a pilot for Ofsted’s new framework from September 2019.  This was not an official trial of the whole framework (the focus was the subject-specific curriculum in 2 subjects) and therefore has no official status. We received no judgements or written feedback. The following reflections are merely our own personal reflections on our experience. We hope that these might be useful to share as history teams develop their curriculum (and it might help prepare for inspection too!).

What did our pilot involve?

Our 1-day visit involved these key components:

  • Observing 20 minutes of two history lessons
  • Reviewing a sample of enquiry overviews
  • Reviewing a sample of history books across KS3
  • A short discussion with senior leaders about the curriculum and subject areas (20 mins)
  • An hour discussion with the Head of History and his line manager about several aspects of the history department, including the curriculum and assessment.

How did we prepare?

We realised that the emphasis of the pilot would be focused on the subject team, and that our Head of Department would have the longest opportunity to share our team’s vision for teaching history.  We pulled together and made the following available for the inspector:

An ‘A to Z’ guide to our department

We had already begun to put this together for our ‘Gold HA Quality Mark’ but it proved a nifty summary of our practice.  The process of producing this acted as a stimulus for team discussion and allowed us to refresh our memories about how to articulate our practice.  

Sample enquiry planning overviews

Plans for individual lessons or detailed schemes of work were not required.  We did find it useful to share short A4 summaries of our enquiries we were teaching.  These exemplified our practice and contextualised the observed lessons.

Sample pupil work

We found it helpful that we all teach broadly the same enquiries and have the same milestone assessments that are shared across the team.  The work in books helped to visualise our curriculum and exemplify what our teaching and assessment looks like in practice.

Reflecting on our answers to our departmental curriculum planning questions (see update in TH168)  in advance helped us to crisply articulate our ideas on the day.  

What were the significant changes from previous Ofsted visits?

An opportunity to explain our subject-specific practice

Recently, extremely short inspections have not allowed for in-depth conversations about subject specialisms.  We welcomed the opportunity to having extended time to explain our rationale for how we plan, teach, assess and monitor pupil progress in history, rather than generically.  

A genuine curricular focus

Lesson observations and work scrutiny had a renewed emphasis on whether the intended curriculum was being enacted in practice.  Lessons were evaluated as part of a sequence, rather than in isolation. Work in books was judged on whether the curriculum was being taught as well as retaining a focus on feedback.  

What did we learn from the experience?

We were reassured that our approach to curricular planning was valued and that our inspector seemed genuinely interested in subject-specificity.  Those colleagues who expected pupil data not to feature will be disappointed – the sharp focus on pupil outcomes remained. What was new, however, was a sense of a discussion about how those might be arrived at in different ways in different subject areas.

Thanks to the History Department, Cottenham Village College for this blogpost.

Follow the Historical Association on Facebook and @histassoc for further updates. 

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