Ofsted ‘pop quiz’ tests unfairly downgrade schools, say chiefs | ofste
Schools are downgraded by Ofsted if children questioned by inspectors cannot remember the names of rivers in geography or struggle to explain key concepts in the story, school leaders say.
Under a new inspection framework, schools risk being graded if students don’t remember or correctly articulate what they’ve learned, sometimes years ago, when put to a ‘pop quiz’ impromptu by the inspectors. At a flagship secondary school, an outstanding grade was downgraded to good when 11- and 12-year-olds were unable to clearly explain “the principle of the rule of law”.
Ofsted inspections in England resumed late last year after a suspension during the pandemic. Schools are judged on a new framework introduced in 2019, which focuses more on teaching and curriculum. Exceptional schools that were, until recently, exempt from routine inspection are now being visited.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief education inspector, said she expects the number of outstanding schools, currently one in five, to be halved under the new scheme.
Within this framework, inspectors carry out “in-depth explorations” in four to six subject areas to explore planning, teaching and impact on student learning. This involves inspectors asking randomly selected students what they have learned to test what they know and remember.
School leaders’ organizations are increasingly concerned that schools are being devalued due to responses given by nervous children, some of whom are infants, being questioned without warning by adults they do not know.
Inspection reports note ‘gaps in student knowledge and understanding’ and cite examples of students unable to remember or articulate the content being taught or displaying ‘shallow’ or ‘disjointed’ understanding. Schools say too much weight is given to these answers. The Ofsted manual says inspectors should take a ‘holistic view’ of education quality and use a variety of types of evidence in their judgements.
Despite its borough’s best GCSE results in 2019 and results for disadvantaged pupils above the national average for non-disadvantaged pupils, Ursuline High School, a Catholic school for girls in Wimbledon, has just been downgraded from excellent to good .
The school, considered a flagship secondary school by Merton Council, challenged the judgment. He believes that the downgrading is due, in large part, to the principal inspector’s concern about the responses of Year 8 students to questions he asked about “the principle of the rule of law” that they covered in 7th grade. According to the school, this incident was given too much prominence and was misused as evidence of a more systemic problem in the quality of education. In the 2019 GCSE results, 85% of the school’s history students scored 9-5, with half getting the top marks of 7-9.
Ursuline High’s submission to Ofsted said: ‘The school does not dispute the finding that the subject of the rule of law was not sufficiently explicit in the learning programmes. The school, however, disputes the disproportionate weight given to this fact to support the overall assessment that the quality of its teaching is therefore not exceptional.
“To do so would be to give undue weight to this piece of evidence and inconsistent with the overall thesis that an accurate judgment of quality should only be reached after considering all the evidence.”
In another case, inspectors who downgraded Coalway Community Infant School in the Forest of Dean from ‘exceptional’ to ‘needs improvement’ cited a case where pupils, aged under seven, could not not “order important events of history as they have gaps in their knowledge”.
Headteachers’ organizations said last night that other schools had had similar experiences.
“Headteachers are increasingly concerned about the conclusions some inspectors are drawing in response to pupils saying the ‘wrong’ thing or giving the ‘wrong’ answer or not understanding a question,” said Ian Hartwright, policy adviser Principal at the National Association of Head Teachers. . “It’s really problematic to try to assess what kids know by asking them ‘quiz pop’ questions and see if they remember things and can articulate [them] adequately. This type of approach is subjective and variable. Neither is a good thing in an inspection system where you need consistency.
He cited the example of a school that felt it had been graded because students in a geography lesson could not remember the name of a river they had covered in a lesson.
“I just had another example on my desk last week where a school is absolutely convinced it meets the benchmark for excellence, but it stumbled because the kids were asked something they had learned the previous year in design technology and they weren’t I can’t remember. According to the inspector, it showed that their knowledge was not consolidated,” Hartwright added. “But the inspectors didn’t just don’t have time to accurately interrogate the program in this way during a two-day inspection.
An Ofsted spokeswoman said: ‘Talking to pupils is an important part of the inspection process, to help assess whether the school’s teaching intentions match what pupils know and understand. Actually. But it is never true that students’ answers to questions would be the only reason for a grade change in a school.