Ofsted marking down traditional teaching, says report

Classroom Ofsted insists it does not have a preferred teaching style

Ofsted is penalising England's teachers for using traditional "chalk and talk" teaching styles, a report says.

Think tank Civitas analysed 260 Ofsted reports and found "trendy" child-led learning and "jazzy lessons" were preferred to teacher-led classes.

The report says inspectors should know not to give credit to one style of teaching over another.

Ofsted said chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw had made it clear teachers were free to decide how they should teach.

But the report found teachers were "accustomed to putting on 'jazzy' lessons, replete with group work, role play and active learning in order to fulfil what has become widely acknowledged as the 'Ofsted style'".

Start Quote

Please, please, please think carefully before criticising a lesson ”

End Quote Sir Michael Wilshaw Chief inspector of schools

The study for the think tank, by Robert Peal, a history teacher and education research fellow, is based on an analysis of two sets of reports.

The first 130 reports, on secondary schools inspected between September 10 and October 13 last year, showed clear evidence of bias, Civitas claims.

While more than half (52%) showed a preference for lessons in which pupils learned independently from teacher instruction, 42% showed a preference for group work, the study says. And 18% criticised teachers for talking too much.

The second set of 130 reports was produced from inspections carried out after new guidance on how to assess teaching quality was issued earlier this year.

Sir Michael wrote to inspectors in January saying: "Please, please, please think carefully before criticising a lesson because it doesn't conform to a particular view of how children should be taught."

'Banned phrases'

Although in the second batch of reports the percentage showing a preference for child-centred learning fell to 38%, the report says the change in the language of the reports was "superficial".

And it claims lead inspectors were given a list of "banned phrases" bemoaning the lack of "trendy teaching methods".

It adds that some reports were edited after publication "to expunge examples of child-centred language".

"Such a shallow approach to combating the preferred Ofsted style of teaching relies on changing the language of the reports, but allowing the fundamental judgement to remain the same," the report says.

It goes on to call for the removal of Ofsted's power to grade the quality of teaching so that schools have the "professional autonomy to focus on what teaching methods work best".

An Ofsted spokesman said: "The arguments put forward in this report are largely reheated ones.

"What matters to Ofsted is what matters to parents - ensuring that schools are delivering the best possible education for their children.

"As HM chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has repeatedly made clear, Ofsted does not have a preferred teaching style. It is up to the classroom teacher to determine how they should teach."

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