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Progress, but a lot of work still to do

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: OfstedMyths

Hopefully, those of you who keep in touch with my updates here and my Twitter activity will have noticed that one of my main preoccupations in the last year has been Ofsted myths.

Getting the message across about what Ofsted does and doesn’t expect at inspection is vitally important.  We know that teacher workload is a genuine concern and that, whether through reality or perception, the industry of ‘things that you must do for Ofsted’ has added to that burden.  It doesn’t help pupils either, taking attention away from the key priority of providing a good education.

We are now 18 months into our myth busting campaign and we felt it was important to get a sense of whether it was making an impression.  That’s why earlier this year we commissioned research among the classroom teachers to establish whether or not the myth busting messages were getting through.  The results were largely positive.  Of nine myths we have been trying to bust, seven have been debunked.  For example, of those surveyed:

  • 81% knew that Ofsted don’t require individual lesson plans
  • 70% knew that we don’t have guidance on preferred ways of marking
  • 74% knew that we don’t grade individual lessons.

Less satisfying though was the discovery that 70% of teachers still seem to think Ofsted has a preferred, child-centred, style of teaching.  We don’t.  And only a small majority (56%) appreciate that most inspection teams include a serving school leader.

So some grounds for optimism, but more work to do in the coming year.

As part of the same research we also explored wider attitudes towards Ofsted as an organisation and preferences about the way we communicate with the profession.  It is important for us to understand how we are perceived so that we can work out how best to engage with the sector and consider any changes that might be necessary to the way we work.

It’s fair to say that we won’t be winning a popularity contest any time soon. No surprise there!  But even within some tough messages we can see an acknowledgement of the professionalism of our work. Fifty seven per cent agree that their most recent inspection was ‘a fair and accurate assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of my school’.

Our research with teachers complements work we do with parents, again to understand their awareness and experience of Ofsted and help us adapt and improve what we do and how we communicate.

You can read the full results of our research work with teachers and parents.  Also worth a read is the recent NFER Teacher Voice report that shows Ofsted’s mythbusting advice is the most prominent tool for schools in tackling workload. Don’t forget to check out our mythbusting content.  And you can watch our playlist of films about myths on our YouTube channel.

Please email us with any comments, queries or ideas for future blogs. You can keep up-to-date with Ofsted news by signing up for email alerts. You can also follow Ofsted on Twitter.

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  1. Comment by Terry Pearson posted on

    Sean, I hope you don’t think these are pedantic points but I do believe accuracy is important when reporting findings. At first I thought there would be just a few points but once I had begun I thought it only proper that I continued.

    The headline on page 7 of the teachers document should read ‘Teachers with five years or less teaching experience ...’ not teachers with less than five years experience unless the categories should be 1-4 years and 5-15 years.

    Similarly the headline on page 8 should read ‘Teachers with 6 or more years teaching experience ...’ unless the categories incorrect.

    The headline on page 13 should read ‘Around one half of all teachers ...’ or ‘Just over one half of all teachers ....’ or something similar as 52% isn’t one half.

    On page 16 the percentages shown in the graphs don’t match one of the headline statements. 35% + 37% = 72% which is not the same as 7 out of ten. The headline should be adjusted in a similar way to that on page 13.

    On page 18, 57% is not the same as 6 out of ten.

    On page 19, 44% is not the same as four out of ten.

    Page 23, ‘Teachers with five years or less teaching experience ...’ again.

    Page 26, 81% is very to, but not the same as eight out of ten.

    Page 28, ‘One half of all teachers’ again.

    Page 29, 36% is not the same as one-third.

    Page 30, 24% is not the same as one-quarter.

    Page 33, 74% is not the same as eight out of ten.

    Page 34, see above.

    Page 37, 27% is not the same as one-quarter.

    Page 38, 50% + 21% + 5% = 76% and 100% - 23% = 77% neither of which is three quarters.

    Page 40, 54% is not the same as one-half.

    Page 41, neither 61% nor 57% is the same as six out of ten.

  2. Comment by James Mook posted on

    "81% knew that Ofsted don’t require individual lesson plans" but, of course, lesson plan are required for ITE inspections. From the ITE handbook, "Inspectors would normally expect to see a detailed written lesson plan for every lesson they observe taught by trainees."

    Frameworks not quite joined up?

    Impact on trainee workload?

  3. Comment by Louise Neve posted on

    Great work. I agree that in my experience the message is starting to get through. I have to say that LAs are a big source of disinformation. They sometimes twist/ misinterpret what has been said, but more importantly often generalise and disseminate key issues from individual school's OFSTEDs (especially if 2 or 3 schools have similar issues/praise within a short time-frame). Work is needed to prevent LAs disseminating anything as an issue or good practice unless it is direct from OFSTED itself.

  4. Comment by Walter wallcarpet posted on

    Ah, but is it a myth that :
    all inspectors must, by law bring a wheelie case to inspections?
    the provision of chocolate coated biscuits is more likely to lead to a positive outcome?
    The useless question 'do you feel safe' is always asked in pupil meetings?
    The only strand of British values that is ever looked at in inspections is tolerance/respect, not the other three.
    Inspectors are now scared to death of asking about predictions, despite the fact comparisons of predictions between subjects can say a lot about teaching across subjects/year groups.
    The TLA paragraph largely duplicates the outcomes paragraph in reports, since one leads to the other.

  5. Comment by Elisabeth Fenwick posted on

    It would be good to hear your views or any myth busting about what is expected of Governors during an inspection as there are 'horror' stories around.

  6. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

  7. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi Terry, Thanks for taking the time to comment on this. We will be looking at these points with interest and will be discussing them with YouGov who produced the report on our behalf.

  8. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi Louise, thanks for commenting on the message starting to get through and for your observations on LA's.

  9. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi James, Thanks for your comments. To be clear - the 81% mentioned are the figures gathered from qualified teachers.

  10. Comment by Dr J Harvey posted on

    "And only a small majority (56%) appreciate that most inspection teams include a serving school leader."

    Interesting. Does that mean there is no obvious difference between the skill levels of various team members? If so, perhaps a positive, maybe even impressive finding, indicating that serving school leaders are as well able to keep abreast of Ofsted requirements as full-time inspectors. On the other hand, if there's no obvious difference, is it sensible to make serving school leaders act as inspectors, potentially reducing their value to their own institutions while they inspect those of others?

  11. Comment by C Jones posted on

    I think LA's and quick fire communication between schools is a real issue. You hear of ofsted not liking something at one school.and suddenly you start to make changes if this is something your school does without ever seeing the wider context of why it didnt work in that school or lesson etc. Similarly, you hear ofsted has praised things at a couple of nearby schools so you start to shoe horn it in without questioning if that style, technique or thing fits your school. But ofsted coming does make you feel like you have to jump through hoops. I think ofsted and the government need to adjust their thoughts on what makes a good school 'good' and take more time to look at, beyond the data, what a school is offering as the results don't always tell the full story of a school and how amazing they are.

  12. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Thank your for your observations, which I have passed on the relevant team.

  13. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Thank you for your observations, which I have passed on to the relevant team.

  14. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Thank you for your observations, which I have passed on to the relevant team.

  15. Comment by James Greenwood posted on

    I read the myth busting article from Sean Harford with interest. I do think that progress has been made in getting the clear message out and I do think that Sean and his colleagues need to be congratulated for this.
    The next big area to be addressed is the overuse of data. Ofsted use this data to make judgements from a distance. Is this healthy? As a head teacher of a junior school I am concerned that both Ofsted and the RSCs are prepared to use progress data that is so flawed in junior schools (due to incorrect key stage 1 data). When will this change? Not only is the system not safe (and I speak as a parent and head teacher) but that theories on learning disputes the short term nature of judgements being made about learning progress. If Ofsted is to move forward with the times then it must grow, like all of us. The cognitive research gathers momentum and I, like many educational professionals, want to be reassured that inspectors are getting upto date training on learning and that to gain long term advances sometimes the immediate progress will not be apparent. This is tough for inspectors but if we are to make a long term difference to our pupils development then the challenge and the myth busting with data must now take place.
    I look forward to your response to addressing the concerns with data and junior school data anomalies. Thank you.

  16. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi James, thanks very much for your observations which I've passed on to the relevant team.

  17. Comment by K BOWEN posted on

    The number of very experienced teachers (16 years plus) seems a lot compared to their actual % of the workforce from what I read about teachers leaving teaching and my own experience. Was the sample size planned to be in line with the % of actual teachers in each of the experience groupings? I found this report on teacher perceptions one of the most muddled pieces of statistical reporting ever and it is easy to see how the media could grab onto a percentage here or there and miss the whole thread, regarding how a group of professionals feel about the regulation of their profession. I was unsure as to why the question about challenging your SLT was in there - where did that fit in? I also agree with the first comment regarding the weird and wonderful percentages and fractions, it is so much easier to compare like with like, rather than say something like '41% of jelly babies are yellow, compared to one fifth which are pink' which just leads to some quick mental maths for those who like it, or I know not what for those who don't. I would appreciate someone taking the time to explain some answers to me, rather than receive the same reply as everyone else on here so far!, in the spirit of Ofsted being more user friendly I hope this is forthcoming.

    My own personal experience in recent years is of a much more friendly face of Ofsted in 2016 and 2017 than in 2015.

  18. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Thanks very much for your observations, which I have passed on. These figures were gleaned from our annual teachers' survey which is undertaken by YouGov who are very reputable and experienced. We rigorously test out the questions before we commission it. The report is based on a sample of 1,026 teachers. Thank you for your comments about Ofsted more recently.