Feb 062013

Ofsted visited back in November. It’s fair to say it didn’t go well, and I guess at some point I’ll be compelled to write about the experience of working in a school in Special Measures. I was observed on day two after the management specifically requested that I was visited. The inspector spent quite a bit of time in the room, disappearing for 20 minutes and reappearing at the end of the double lesson to see the final outcomes.

Horizon Inspector

Horizon Inspector NJ 2012

I was truly proud of the students that day. We took over the Learning Resource Centre and prepared for an investigation into Henry VIII and his relationships with those around him. The students devised and put on a roleplay in the style of This Is Your Life. Roles were differentiated, the kids researched independently, coached each other for accents, wrote scripts and had great fun performing the final piece – which they directed entirely themselves. They paid little attention to the inspector who made copious note while giggling away in the corner.
I knew that the lesson had gone pretty well so I went for my “feedback session” fairly confident that I had done my best to represent the department and the School as a whole. Spirits fell at Mr Inspector’s somewhat ominous opening question… “I expect you thought that was outstanding”? After a few excruciating minutes, I learned that a couple of boys with genuine difficulties in behaviour had drifted off task for a moment. (The fact that that the same boys had produced excellent work and had found the confidence to act in front of the rest of the class was lost to the inspector.) The student playing the key role had been improvising joyfully and brilliantly throughout the final performance, but it was suggested that a second student could have been deployed in a support role. I pointed out that this was exactly what I had done (and had film evidence) I confess that when the class were called to order at the end of the lesson, I probably had to wait for a couple of seconds. This fact was picked up on.  Shucks.

The outcome of the lesson was Good. At the time I felt that I’d really let the school down. I was desperate to try and understand what more I could have done and particularly interested to know what Mr Inspector had been writing. A little research revealed that the Data Protection Act could be invoked to require Ofsted to release the evidence form used in my observation.

The procedure is very simple, and explained on the Ofsted site here. Simply email enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk and supply them with the following information…

Home address
Date of lesson
Time of lesson
Year group
Name of inspector
Details of lesson content

Include a photocopy of your driving license as proof of identy. There is no cost to you and the disclosure should take place within 40 days that Ofsted recieve the request. It’s important to do this quickly because the evidence base from a school inspection is usually destroyed six months after the publication of a report.
If one were feeling a little mischievous, and assuming that Ofsted inspect 6500 schools per year and look at around 30 lessons each time I calculate that if everyone took a couple of minutes to do the same, they’d be dealing with 250000 requests a year.

And here’s the actual Evidence form. I’ve read and re-read it. The focus was Challenge. I’m at a loss to understand how the challenge could have been higher, or that in reality I could ever teach better.


Is the Earth overpopulated?

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Jan 112013

Please take a second to answer the question I’ve set my year 9 class. Thanks to all those who’ve already contributed.

My Year 9 class is finishing off a sequence of lessons on the topic of population. To wrap things up, I’ve divided the class into groups and asked them to research the question of whether the world is overpopulated or not.

During the register I showed the class a similar graph to  one that featured in the first lesson. They had to figure out the translation from the Polish original.
We had a brief discussion about the concept of ecological footprints and carrying capacity (though I didn’t use that term) We calculated the ecological footprint of a member of the class.
I asked the question ‘Is the Earth overpopulated?” explaining that I had no idea what the answer was. The groups could answer the question in whatever format they choose, though I stressed the need for their opinion to be supported by facts.
To help them settle quicker, and to force a little accountability, I created some roles with badges made with the Big Huge Labs tool. Access to computers was restricted in order to encourage groups to devise more thoughtful questions for the Researcher.

Fortuitously, David Didau has been pondering on effective group work as I wrote this. I’ll refresh the post once the work is complete.

Popplet: Islands

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Jun 162012

I’m planning a new thematic topic on islands.

Island with clear waters

Key ideas are drawn from a variety of topics including tectonics, coasts, oceanography, bio-geography, tourism, waste disposal and sea level change.

Play with the Popplet to see how my ideas are shaping up…

Dress for the climate: exemplar work by Simon (Year 8)

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Nov 092011

I really liked this piece of work by Simon. He looked up the climate graphs of the locations mentioned, then described the climate and designed appropriate clothes. It’s an old activity from Juicy Geography, but it always gets good results and I enjoyed his take on the activity!

CLIMATE by Simon

Oct 072010

I can only spare a few minutes to Twitter each week and can’t help feeling slightly guilty when I harvest good ideas and tips from conversations without giving much back. Even worse, I can’t remember who it was that shared a tip for managing group work situations, but it’s simple and effective and my Year 7’s find it a great motivator.

Secretly nominate one student to be the Mystery Student. The class knows that if the group containing the mystery student achieve their objectives, work sensibly and stay focussed for the lesson, then all students will receive a small reward at the end.

This tip has probably been around forever, but it’s new to me!

Apr 262010

This is a first draft of a little teaching resource I’ve been working on. I’ve used a Google My Map to link to some high quality 360 images. It’s not finished – there will be a better version along with some teaching ideas on Juicy Geography soon.

View Dawlish 360 in a larger map