Preparing for a lesson observation can be an anxiety-inducing experience for many teachers. However, with proper planning, support, and organisation, it can also be a valuable opportunity for professional growth and development.

In writing this article I initially wrote down a long list of “dos” and “do nots”. I quickly realised that this approach was somewhat flawed, in that much will be dictated by the individual reader’s stage of development, and the priorities and culture of the school they work in. Therefore, I offer instead a guide to being as ready as you can be!

Agreeing the priorities

The very nature of the observation will vary from school to school, however, when you cut through it all, one commonality emerges – what is the key area you need to develop? This should be discussed with your line manager and agreed in line with the protocols of your school. Some schools may wish you to focus on two or three areas, but if the choice is yours, agree on a single focus, and work on that focus until mastered before moving on. (This is not to say that other areas cannot provide opportunities for insights.) Examples of these foci include:

Note that these are framed as the “what” (e.g. questioning) and the “what for” (e.g. to deepen discussion). This will help keep the focus razor-sharp and purposeful.

Agreeing the lesson observation time and date

Again, depending on the protocols of your school, you may have a lot or very little say in selecting your lesson. If you do have an input, think about this carefully. The choice of lesson can be the difference between a tick-box experience and an incredibly valuable one. Hopefully you have the confidence to embrace a class you are having difficulties with for your observation, so that you can get the support and guidance on the focus for improvement. If permitted, try to get three days to a full weeks’ notice so you have plenty of time to prepare. Last-minute observations can be anxiety-inducing and serve limited purpose in terms of school improvement.

Students putting their hands up to answer a question in class.

This block is currently empty. Please add some content.

Deciding what to teach and how to teach it

This is easy! Teach whatever you planned to in the first place, in the way you planned to teach it! The observation process should look at the typicality of teaching in your classroom. One-off performance lessons provide no meaningful basis for individual and whole school improvement. Teachers and leaders should be working together, with integrity and honesty, to improve teaching and learning for the betterment of the pupils in the classroom. Therefore, I feel it is vital that observations are completed in line with the expected curriculum and your everyday approach to that class.

Planning for the lesson observation

As with any lesson you must consider the needs of your pupils. Consider the following:

Secondary school teacher providing one-on-one support to a pupil.

My school does not require a specific lesson plan for lesson observations; however, many schools still do, and I for one think they can be a great tool for two reasons:

  1. Preparing a plan allows you to map out the flow of your lesson and potentially predict any areas of difficulty in advance. It allows you to think and plan for questioning, transitions, and timings.
  2. Having a plan printed and ready for your observer provides them with a clear view of what you intended to happen. As we know, lessons tend to deviate from said plans! If the observation is for half the lesson, it also provides a takeaway for the observer so they can get an idea of what went before and what is to follow.

The lesson plan itself will largely depend on the protocols of your school, however, a simple timeline or PowerPoint printout in note form will suffice! An all singing and all dancing word document listing every single event and possibility is a potential drain of your valuable time! Be careful!

It’s all about you!

Lesson observations should be first and foremost about developing you, the teacher! Embrace the opportunity and treat feedback as a gift. Remember, it’s not about being perfect for one lesson, but about providing a high standard to your pupils over a sustained period.

Best of luck!

Rightly or wrongly, it is the word that fills so many teachers, leaders, and governors with dread. Ofsted. So how can we prepare for that inevitable call? In this article, I aim to use my own experiences to guide classroom teachers in their preparations for the inspection, so that you can show yourself, and your school, in its best light!

High expectations for every pupil, every day

Our pupils deserve a high-quality education. This can only be achieved if three partners work in perfect cohesion: parents/carers, the pupil, and school staff. Our job as teachers is to affect our part of this triad by ensuring high quality equitable implementation of the curriculum, providing high challenge to learners of all academic abilities, and holding pupils to account. The last point can only be achieved if pupils are 100% clear on the expectations placed upon them. Therefore, they need to be simple to follow and over communicated clearly. Some questions to consider here include:

This is not an exhaustive list but illustrates the depth and complexity of the term “high expectations”.

A male secondary school teacher standing next to an interactive whiteboard and teaching a lesson to his pupils.

Work to policy: behaviour

Much of what is said here builds upon the previous section, in terms of having high expectations of pupil behaviour. Now, whether your school has good behaviour or more challenging behaviour, there is one word that is paramount: consistency. In my own school, consistency is driven by a centralised behaviour system. If you employ a similar system, are you adhering to the policy perfectly? Do you have scripted warnings that pupils clearly understand? Are parents contacted at the appropriate times?

Many schools still run more localised behaviour systems. Whilst this can be more work for individual teachers, it can also give more “ownership” of behaviour resolution to the teachers at the centre of it. This can be really empowering − if it doesn’t become overwhelming. In these instances, consistency is even more challenging to achieve as it is you who will be making the calls home and arranging (and possibly running) the detention.

Whichever system best fits your current school, the central word is the same: consistency, consistency, consistency.

Work to policy: marking

Despite some of the many myths out there, Ofsted has no preference in terms of marking and feedback policies (Ofsted 2018, p.2). What is important, however, is that whatever your policy is, it must be adhered to. In my view this should be realistic, manageable, and take into consideration teacher wellbeing. Books need to be looked at, and feedback must be provided and acted upon. Without the latter, there is no point in the former! As a classroom teacher, you will be expected to mark and give feedback according to policy. If this is an area you are struggling with, do not hide from it! Seek out the support of a colleague or a line manager. Do not allow problems to build up quietly, only for them to then come out in the worst possible way during an Ofsted book-look or deep dive.

A female teacher sat at her desk and marking a piece of work.

Know your safeguarding

Safeguarding is the single most important aspect of any inspection, and rightly so. There are several documents that you should keep a hard copy of, and refer to regularly, to keep your knowledge of safeguarding in schools (and your role within it) up to date. These include:

You may have noticed that none of this advice is specifically about the inspection day itself, but more about the day-to-day of teaching − this is deliberate. Teachers should not be spending hours the night before an Ofsted inspection preparing extra resources, lesson plans, or rehearsing scripts for their classrooms. The high expectations, good routines and positive relationships should already be in place! This is what it is all about. An Ofsted inspection should provide you, as a classroom teacher, with an opportunity to show inspectors what is typical in your classroom.

So don’t wait for the call. Set the bar high every single day. Afterall, this is exactly what our pupils deserve and exactly what Ofsted will want to see.