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Ofsted Videos

Posted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:21 pm
by Elizabeth
Literacy: a non-negotiable - Building on firm foundations and Reading for meaning
Here you will find two films on teaching reading, part of a series of six. You can watch outstanding phonics teaching in a Year 1 class at Tollgate Primary, Newham and outstanding guided reading with a group of Year 2 pupils at Oldway Primary in Torbay.
You can find the other films in the series under ‘related resources’.
Have a look at the six videos at ... or-meaning

What do you think of them?

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:44 pm
by Susan Godsland
Details of concerns about the films on the Ofsted website with the title, “Literacy: a non-negotiable”, ... troduction and ... oundations

by Elizabeth Nonweiler, January 2013
The lessons in these films are promoted on the Ofsted website as though they should be copied by teachers. In fact, they show lessons which include peripheral activities and some of the results of good teaching. They do not show the sort of phonics lessons with core activities that teachers should aim to provide regularly in order to achieve good results.

The lessons included some examples of good practice, and some of the details that follow may seem trivial enough to be ignored. However, they are important and should not be ignored, because the films will be watched by teachers who assume they illustrate best practice.

Although some synthetic phonics experts might dispute a few of the points I have made, I know they would agree with nearly all of them. A well-structured routine phonics lesson includes the following core activities:
- revision
- learning letter-sound correspondences
- reading
- spelling
- and handwriting

It is fast-paced, because both teachers and children are familiar with the routine, so no time is wasted on remembering or explaining what to do next. Children love routine and are able to learn more, when they are not distracted by peripheral activities and trying to understand what is wanted. Not only are new activities usually slower, but they take too much time to prepare; it would be unreasonable to expect teachers to prepare lessons like the ones on the films on a daily basis.

The films all begin with the title, “Literacy: a non-negotiable”, but they show many activities that are negotiable and are likely to take time away from activities that are essential.

I liked the way the nursery children knew simple letter-sound correspondences and read words, but the film did not show how they were taught to do this. The children were out of doors, but phonics lessons should normally take place indoors, where we normally read and write. When children are outside, they should usually be involved in activities such as independent play, physical education and observing nature.

A lesson with a parachute in the playground was described as “a discrete phonics lesson”, but it was neither an exemplary discrete phonics lesson nor an exemplary parachute lesson. For a lot of the time, the children appeared to be concentrating on holding down the parachute and waiting for their turn to choose a toy or card, one at a time. They were not all taking part in core activities for learning phonics all the time. The teacher had to raise her voice to get above the noise of the wind and the rustling parachute. It would have been better if the phonics lesson had been indoors, routine and interactive, with every child responding to the teacher most of the time. On the other hand, parachute games are valuable and fun for teaching co-operation and providing physical education, without the distraction of phonics.
In another lesson, the children were asked to find toys, when the aim of the lesson was to learn to spell words with “oa”. Spelling is based on sounds. All the children needed was to hear the sound of the word before spelling it. Finding toys is a distraction, and naming a toy might result in a correct but unwanted response. For example, when a child found a toy boat, he might have described it as “a toy” or “a canoe” or “a ship”, when the teacher wanted him to say “boat”.

Right at the beginning in the title, we see plastic letters in many, apparently random, colours. This is distracting; schools should use letters in only one colour.

The nursery teacher asked children to use “phonics fingers” after seeing and reading a word. She said, “We use our phonics fingers to blend the sounds.” This is not good practice, because the aim of using “phonics fingers” is to identify the sounds in unseen spoken words before spelling them.

A teaching assistant was shown working with a lower ability group. This is common practice and sometimes works well. However, it needs challenging. In a film to show good practice, the adult with the most training should work with the lower ability group. The one with the most training is usually the teacher, and not the teaching assistant.

Teachers asked children to think of words with specific phonemes or graphemes. This is not good practice. If the aim is to teach reading and spelling, teachers should provide words for children to read and spell and not ask children to think of them. It is difficult and time-consuming to think of words in this way. However, if the aim is for children to compose a sentence, the children should be asked to compose something related to their experiences or a topic or a story and not something with a specific phoneme or grapheme in it. It is not a good idea to mix teaching of phonics with teaching of composition in this way.

The films showed children sitting on the carpet and standing to write. This is okay occasionally, but as a film to promote good practice, children should be seen only sitting on chairs at tables for writing.

There was no straightforward dictation, although dictation is important.

With the Year 2 class, there was some good analysis of a text for comprehension, but I found the lesson rather laboured. Some of the children were still struggling too much with reading the words to be asked to analyse the meaning of the text in such detail. On the other hand, able children were probably frustrated by waiting for slower children to read words. Comprehension and word reading should not be mixed in this way for children who struggle to read the words. If the aim is comprehension, the text should be read to these children. Once children can read the words in a text easily, word reading and comprehension can be combined as reading comprehension. This is an activity where I would support more differentiation, either in differentiated ability groups, or with targeted activities and questions that individual children could respond to faster and more successfully in a whole class situation.

I tell teachers never to model a word with the wrong spelling, because some of the children are likely to have good visual memories and may reproduce the wrong spelling later, because they have a picture of it in their minds. It may be that it was all right in the film, because of the way the teacher immediately corrected the spelling (“snoa” for “snow”). However, teachers watching the film may be misled into thinking this is good practice generally.
One teacher said, “The key is to tap into exactly what the children like, what makes them tap into the lesson.” This is true sometimes, but a phonics lesson should be teacher-led, and then the teacher should make it interesting for the children. Children love a sense of achievement and the result of a well-taught teacher-led phonics lesson is children who are inspired because they can decode and write words.

I am also concerned about several incidents where language was used wrongly:
-Two of the teachers used phonemes to name letters, confusing phonemes, graphemes and letter names. From my experience with muddled older children, this really matters. The reception teacher said of “have”, “It’s got an /e/ at the end,” using the sound. To be correct, she should have said either, “It’s got an ‘e’ at the end”, using the letter name, or, “In this word, we write /v/ with these letters,” pointing at “ve”. The Year 1 teacher said, “/k/ and /h/ together makes /ch/”, using sounds. This is wrong because “c”, “h” (letter names) in /ch/ is not /k/, /h/ (separate sounds); it is either /ch/ (sound) or it is “c”, “h” (letter names for grapheme). Later /oe/, spelt with a split digraph, was described as /o/ and /e/ (two sounds).
-The inspector said, “Every time a child’s encountered an unfamiliar word, they’ve got really clear strategies”, but by using the plural word, “strategies”, he suggested that the children used more than one strategy. With synthetic phonics, we teach young children to use only one strategy to read words, that is saying the sounds and blending them. In contrast, the old literacy strategy promoted a range of strategies for reading words (context, graphics, syntax, phonics) and these usually amounted to guessing strategies. It is important to make it clear to teachers that they should not encourage a range of strategies.
-The inspector said, “She broke down a sound”. With synthetic phonics, children are taught to identify the separate sounds in words for spelling, which could be described as breaking down words, but not as breaking down sounds.

I shall finish by telling you about a little boy I taught who struggled to concentrate, to remember letter-sound correspondences and to blend sounds to pronounce words. He was one of a small group of four and five year old children of similar ability. They all took part in routine structured lessons with the whole class, and also took part in extra lessons, to help them keep up. These lessons also followed a routine and concentrated on core activities, indoors, with as little distraction as possible. After about ten weeks of these extra lessons, he sounded out and read the word, “frog”, without help. In an otherwise quiet room, he ran to me jumping up and down, shouting, “I did it! I did it! It’s ‘frog’!” Now that surpasses the thrill of waiting for your turn to run under a parachute and pick up a card!

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:59 pm
by volunteer
He he, is there an area on the OFSTED website for this commentary?

The bit about the parachute lesson made me think about whether the phrase "discrete phonics teaching" is an unfortunate one in its use of a homophone. Maybe many people think that phonics lessons should be discreet so that no-one, least of all the group of children, realises that they are happening.

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:45 am
by Debbie Hepplewhite
I believe very strongly that there should be transparent multi-level processes of evaluation (meaning managers, inspectors, advisors are all subject to being scrutinised regarding their capability and their effect on people and systems).

Ofsted should be no less open to scrutiny and commentary than anyone else.

I am not at all sure what Ofsted is trying to achieve with this latest series of videos - but from a systematic synthetic phonics trainer's perspective, they include far-from-ideal examples of outstanding practice - although it may well be the case that there is overall outstanding practice or results in the schools used for the footage.

I agree with Elizabeth's comments that these videos could mislead teachers to err towards 'periphery' practice thinking that Ofsted is highlighting such practice as 'outstanding' or 'non-negotiable' - I usually use the word 'extraneous' which is something Sir Jim Rose warned us about in his independent national review (2006).

What is particularly worrying is that HMI, Ofsted inspectors and various advisors might consider that the periphery/extraneous practice we see on the videos is outstanding!

I can report that trainers such as Elizabeth and myself have to work extraordinarily hard in our training to clarify to teachers and teaching assistants the difference between peripheral/extraneous practice and truly fit-for-purpose, cut-to-the-chase practice. This is a MAJOR issue for us.

The Ofsted video clips are in danger of compromising all our considerable efforts to promote the most effective and clear practice for teaching and learning purposes - and from my persective as a programme author, the clips undermine the delivery and suggestions of practice within the programmes.

As an aside, don't Ofsted inspectors ever look at 'handwriting' when they review practice?

The Ofsted video clips provide me with plenty of examples of less-than-outstanding teaching and practice when considering 'handwriting' which, I suggest, is part and parcel of 'outstanding' basic skills teaching.

Do the Ofsted video clips provide clarity to the viewer as to what the 'non-negotiables' mean to Ofsted? Is the peripheral/extraneous practice one of the 'non-negotiables'? We don't hear about the results of these schools or see any examples of children's work to exemplify the final outcomes or to persuade us that the outcomes are indeed what we might consider 'outstanding'.

In other words, are the videos rather shallow, potentially misleading and, arguably, not well-thought-through or rigorous in their structure, content, commentary or analysis?

Do the videos put HMI and Ofsted at the level of 'serious weaknesses'?

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:09 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
I receive many comments from teachers in schools around the country and around the world, many of them have mentioned issues which we are highlighting in this thread. One common issue is teachers in schools in England commonly telling us that they are receiving different kinds of 'advice' from Ofsted inspectors compared to local authority advisors compared to synthetic phonics trainers or programme authors. In other words, the picture is building up that teachers are receiving lots of mixed messages.

If programme authors themselves are providing training and resources designed on the basis of simple, explicit, routine teaching and learning practices based on research and leading-edge practice, and the inspectors and various advisors who have direct 'authority' over schools then give a different message about peripheral/extraneous activities (and indoor and outdoor phonics), where does this leave the poor teachers?

And, actually, where does this leave the programme authors and trainers of those programmes?

One such school in Special Measures described exactly the scenario above where the teachers went overboard on some 'all singing, all dancing' kind of phonics provision for the purpose of their Ofsted inspection and the Ofsted inspector criticised, for example, their use of 'sound buttons' in Year One - saying that children should not be using them at this stage -and the Ofsted inspector actually did seem to be looking for greater rigour and expectation. However, following the inspection, the local authority 'phonics' advisor came to observe and complained that there was not enough phonics outside and through playing. The essence of both types of advice was contradictory and the teachers are left feeling demoralised and confused as to what they should 'provide' for the best. The latest Ofsted videos, however, would not appear to be backing up the Ofsted inspector's requirement for rigour and expectation - but are closer to the kind of advice offered by the local authority phonics advisor.

No doubt the programme authors and trainers offer a third type of guidance based specifically on their programmes. The teachers will have to make their own minds up based on informed choice - but how many, when under pressure, will follow the official advisory/inspectorial people at the expense of the training and resources based on the programmes themselves?

I also have examples of schools very happily following a programme's approach which was then undermined by local authority advisors who thought they were delivering the message expected, no doubt, by early years advisors and inspectors. It really is a bit of a pickle - but with the dangers of the execution of systematic synthetic phonics programmes (and linguistic phonics programmes) being undermined by 'others' - which, arguably, may reduce the best possible results.

As always, it is the weakest children who will suffer the most because even pink and fluffy phonics teaching may be sufficient to get the majority of children up and running seemingly well enough for reading and spelling.

If local authority advisors watched the Ofsted video clips (and they are the most likely group to watch them), then I suggest they may be seriously led down the route of outside phonics, phonics through games, periphery phonics - rather than core, simple, routine, direct and explicit teaching AND core, simple, routine, direct and fit-for-purpose practice.

Here is an example of a comment that I did not solicit, from someone who has already raised the subject of the video clips with me:
First the Ofsted clips. Too many things to comment on really. It really is things like this that are the catalyst to so many problems. Teachers are not necessarily looking at them to improve their teaching but look for clues to see what Ofsted want to see when they arrive. Then regardless of good/poor examples these are then replicated in classrooms in the hope that Ofsted will be happy. Headteachers look at them and judge their teachers on them. Schools then have paid 'advisors' in who look at them and say that we are 'requiring improvement' if we don't teach phonics or whatever with parachutes....

It makes me wonder how good other information is.

I had another lesson observation this week and my area for improvement was the use of the outside area during phonics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Just to set the picture further, the school has already achieved outstanding phonics results in their early years - and yet are now subject to pressures to move them down the route of the outdoor phonics and so on.

I have many more examples of the confusion and mixed messages taking place in our schools - and in our universities.

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:29 pm
by geraldinecarter
There's a lot hanging on Michael Wilshaw and whether he can impose any discipline and cohesion on Ofsted. DfE are all over the place - one initiative contradicting the next, and the second contradicting the third. Then, as Debbie has pointed out, there's all the advice coming from local authority advisers. I received a glossy booklet from the DfE initially distributed to MPs to inform them on who to approach. It's laughtably short of information - no idea who is leading anything, who the team is etc.etc. Another waste on money.

And the Phonics Catalogue possitively encourages teachers to spend their funding on light and fluffy stuff.

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:27 pm
by volunteer
Has anyone written to suggest perhaps they bin the videos?

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:17 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:24 am
by Susan Godsland

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:07 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
I've had some revealing correspondence with Ofsed regarding the Ofsted videos 'Literacy - the non-negotiables' and it would seem the 'no one way' mantra is firmly embedded in the Ofsted approach right now.

This in itself is woolly and misleading. It should not be 'pot luck' what children receive in their literacy diet as we know so much about effective teaching and learning nowadays and a vague 'do what you want as long as children learn' is not satisfactory.

The questions will always remain:
'Could the teaching have been even better?' - and - 'Who has fallen by the wayside whilst others did well?'

The devil is in the detail - and the Ofsted videos reveal some very weak practice and show children being allowed to embed some very poor habits with their writing.

Further, whilst statistics of numbers of children reaching specific levels in national tests are very important and I hope that such national assessments or tests continue, nevertheless one has to look first hand at the quality of the spelling and writing for oneself.

A pupil can achieve a high level with very poor spelling and handwriting. So, statistics alone do not make outstanding schools - what are the hidden standards?

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:16 pm
by Susan Godsland
https://teachingbattleground.wordpress. ... ally-want/
Whatever Michael Wilshaw says, teacher talk is still out and groupwork and discovery learning are still in. I deeply regret that I was ever stupid enough to believe that the views of the chief inspector and a revised handbook would be enough to cure the Child-Centred Inquisition of their mission to enforce trendy teaching methods on us all. OFSTED remains the steadfast enforcer of the orthodoxies of progressive education, and it is OFSTED, not league tables or government policies, which most shapes our classroom practices.

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 5:24 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite

Here is the 'introductory video' to the series of Ofsted videos 'Literacy - the non-negotiables'. This introductory video seems fair enough as a one-off video - it is aspects of the other videos which raise concern.

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:20 pm
Thanks Susan for an excellent read.Highly recommended and thanks to Elizabeth for her first class analysis of the Ofsted Videos.

Who will watch the OFSTED watchmen?

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:14 am
by chew8
Debbie has twice referred to the title of the introductory Ofsted video as 'Literacy: the non-negotiables' which could imply that the various practices shown in the videos are non-negotiable - i.e. that Ofsted will take a dim view of schools where these practices are not evident. In fact, however, the title of the introductory video is 'Literacy: a non-negotiable' - Ofsted is surely saying that all schools have an obligation to get children literate, and we'd surely agree with that.

Re. tests: we now have the Year 1 screening check as well as the National Curriculum tests. Even if some children do well in the NC tests despite poor spelling and handwriting, it will be hard for schools to get good results in the screening check unless they are teaching phonics well. It will look very odd if Ofsted turns out to have approved of schools using practices which don't produce good results in the Y1 check.

Jenny C.

Re: Ofsted Videos

Posted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:53 am
by Elizabeth
Jenny wrote
It will look very odd if Ofsted turns out to have approved of schools using practices which don't produce good results in the Y1 check.
I think it is likely these schools will produce good results. The children showed that, on the whole, they had good phonic knowledge and skills.

My objection is that the lessons in the films are promoted on the Ofsted website as though they should be copied by teachers. In fact, they show some of the results of good teaching. They do not show the sort of phonics lessons with core activities that teachers should aim to provide regularly in order to achieve good results.

The following are my suspicions, not based on any knowledge of what actually happened. I suspect that, on the whole, these schools provided good phonics lessons with a routine of core activities. However, the schools wanted a good Ofsted report. Some of the teachers believed, probably correctly, that Ofsted inspectors usually want something more entertaining, elaborate and unique than a routine lesson. Other teachers believed, probably correctly, that Ofsted inspectors like lessons with lots of groups doing different things. So, for the Ofsted inspection, the teachers did not show their usual routine lessons. Or maybe they did, but Ofsted preferred to show the non-routine lessons in the films.

This is not only a missed opportunity, but misleading and damaging. I fear it will reinforce teaching habits that are not rigorous and undermine effective teaching habits. If schools copy these lessons, instead of daily routine lessons with core activities, they will not get good results, the children will suffer and synthetic phonics will get the blame.