I went to a Grammar School. We didn't have many great lessons. It was a plod through a curriculum that taught me things I've rarely needed. O levels and A levels in the bag I moved on into life. I was able to remember a lot of things and I suppose that helped as I moved into the world of work. Regular readers will be aware of my cynicism as to what the "powers that be" decide is worth learning. It was, therefore, with some amazement that I listened to the new boss of OFSTED Amanda Spielman at last week's ASCL conference. The HMCI made a big deal of an education not being just about a set of examination results. I repeat - not just about a set of examination results. Hallelujah.
Now, I don't think this means that examination results suddenly don't matter. Of course they do. Good GCSE and A level results are a passport to a range of new opportunities. To do badly in examinations can be restrictive. But it's not the end of the world. And similarly if a school doesn't get sensational GCSE results there seems to be a new understanding that it's not necessarily a bad school. Those of us who have been immersed in all sorts of schools throughout our careers are fully aware that there are great teachers across the system. Great teachers who pupils will remember for ever. Teachers who make lessons interesting, who care about those in the class, who don't just follow systems, who think creatively about how to engage young people, who enjoy their job.
I've observed hundreds of lessons. Most are effective, some are disappointing and ineffective. A few are brilliant. I've seen children arriving in a lesson to be told they need to hide under desks because there's an air raid about to happen, food being prepared and cooked to high quality restaurant specs, role playing a debate in Stalin's government, hot seating a South African racist before Mandala's release, maths competitions, short story writing, recreation of a French breakfast experience and a film made by a teacher about the Peasant's revolt in which he plays the lead role. Memorable. And great.
Under Sir Michael Wilshaw there was a move towards the idea of OFSTED not having a set way of teaching. This seems to be continuing on Amanda Spielman's watch. When a school is under OFSTED scrutiny it's hard to let go of past expectations but the more great lessons there are the better. If you think you are about to teach one please let me know. I'd love to watch!
However whilst great lessons are wonderful so are the regular good lessons which combine to ensure thoughtful planning, combined with sensible behaviour management and helpful feedback give pupils a positive experience. Don't stop doing that - just consider if you might do something a bit different now and again. OFSTED won't beat you up - and I'll be delighted. Welcome Amanda Spielman.