Lesson Observation Guidance
There are two statutory requirements that require governing bodies and headteachers to organise classroom observation:
- As part of their responsibilities to carry out the school performance management policy determined by the governing body, headteachers are required to ensure that classroom observation arrangements established by a classroom observation policy are in place.
- Headteachers are required to put in place arrangements for the evaluation of teaching and learning in their schools.
Performance management regulations - classroom observations
The performance management regulations state:
- There is a maximum of three hours observation allowed for the purpose of PM.
- The arrangements for any observations must be recorded in the reviewee's planning statement.
- The planning statement will specify the purpose of the observation and the particular aspects of a reviewee's teaching that will be assessed during the observation.
- Additional classroom observations may be arranged when evidence emerges which gives rise to concern about the reviewee's teaching performance. This must lead to a revision meeting or in the minority of cases could lead to capability procedures.
- The reviewee must receive a written report within five working days.
- All observations used for performance management must be carried out by a qualified teacher.
The multi-purpose nature of performance management observations
The PM guidance states that evidence gathered from classroom observation agreed in the planning and review statement should be 'multi-purpose', providing monitoring information for a range of other necessary purposes, such as school self-evaluation and school improvement as well as performance management' (sic). i.e. observations should fulfil both the performance management regulations and the statutory duties of heads to evaluate the quality of teaching and learning. Therefore if identified within the school policy performance management observations may;
- Be graded using Ofsted criteria (see below for further guidance).
- Be available to subject / team leaders in a summarised form as part of school self-evaluation.
- Be kept by the headteacher as part of the school self-evaluation evidence and summaries of findings made available to wider audiences (e.g. governors, school improvement partners (SIPs), advisers, Ofsted).
- Be carried out by an education adviser / SIP with or without the headteacher or designated member of staff (often as part of the quality assurance process).
- Note: it is recommended only one performance management observation is carried out by an advisor or SIP. The feedback from these observations should be in line with agreed school policy.
Further information on grading lessons
- The primary purpose of performance management observations is to provide constructive feedback to teachers, celebrating achievements and supporting development. If Ofsted gradings are to be allocated it must be recognised that these are the least important part of the process and are generally in place for reporting purposes only.
- Schools using Ofsted grading must ensure staff are familiar with the criteria.
- The awarding of Ofsted grades without supporting information and development is unacceptable.
- If a performance management observation is to have a 'multi-purpose' aspect, this must be shared with the teacher.
Any teacher who believes their feedback to be outside the guidance above should contact their union.
There may be visits outside the three hours as part of a headteacher's right to drop in. Unless these observations give rise to a concern about a teacher's performance or it has been agreed at the planning and review meeting, the evidence for these may not be used in PM. On rare occasions drop-in observations may provide evidence that shows a teacher is experiencing difficulties against their agreed objectives. School should agree the subsequent process as part of their performance management policy. For example the person undertaking the observation should alert the appropriate reviewer allowing for further documented discussion.
The purpose, scope and audience for any records / observations from these observations should be within the school's agreed lesson observation policy. Schools should have a clear rationale for drop-ins to ensure they do not become excessive.
Drop-in visits may include:
- Monitoring the progress of a school strategy.
- Monitoring the consistency of application of school policy.
- Accompanying visitors around school - school improvement partners, parents, students.
Lesson observations outside the three hours
In the spirit of the regulations, schools are encouraged to plan all observations that may happen during the course of a school year into the three hours: this would include drop-ins, consultant / adviser observations and observations which fulfil the requirement that headteachers have arrangements for the evaluation of teaching and learning in their schools. However it is recognised that there may be some circumstances which mean for the purpose of self-evaluation more observations will take place. These will be outside the performance management process. These circumstances may include:
- Schools in an Ofsted category.
- LA observations using their statutory powers of intervention.
- Schools judged by the headteacher, SIP or LA to be vulnerable to being placed in an Ofsted category.
- Schools with a new or interim Headteacher.
- In schools taking part in curriculum or school improvement projects.
- In other circumstances, if agreed within the PM policy.
Observation and professional development
Peer / coaching observations may take place as part of teachers' CPD. These may either be identified at the planning stage or agreed during the year. They may be outside the three hours max for PM observations. The reviewee may identify the notes from these observations as evidence to bring to the PM review meeting however the observer must not share the information from the observation without the permission of the reviewee.
Governors may visit classrooms to become familiar with the school or to observe specific aspects of the curriculum. Such visits should always be by prior arrangement and follow agreed procedure. These visits are not professional observations, as governors should not be evaluating the work of teachers. They must not form part of the PM process.
All schools should have an agreed Governor Visits policy, shared with teachers and adhered to by governors. It is the responsibility of the headteachers to ensure that all governor visits comply with the school policy.
Protocol for classroom observations
Each school's governing body should consult with staff and recognised trade unions and publish a classroom observation policy (model policies available on education on line).
Classroom observations are a right and opportunity for all teachers. As such they should always be well planned, supportive and developmental, celebrating successes and supporting teachers to review and develop their teaching. Any part of teachers' directed time may be a focus for observation (including tutor time).
All classroom observations should be in line with the following principles:
Performance management classroom observations
- They must be in line with the school's agreed policy for classroom observations.
- The purpose / focus of all PM observations should be agreed at the planning and review meeting.
- The exact dates and times of any observations should be agreed at least five days before the observation. Ideally, however, the timings will be shared with staff annually or termly as part of school improvement planning.
- Ideally there will be a meeting prior to the observation to allow both parties to meet to discuss the lesson and the procedures for the observation.
- Verbal feedback should be given as soon as possible after the observation. Ideally this should be planned into the observation timetable, allowing staff to meet within the school day. PPA and lunch/ break times should not be used for verbal feedback.
- A written report of the verbal feedback should be given to the staff member within five working days. Teachers should be encouraged to add their own comments. If comments are added this is the copy that should remain on file.
- All feedback should identify positive points arising from the lesson and constructive advice on any areas for improvement.
- Opportunities for support and CPD should be identified as part of the feedback.
Multi-purpose use of performance management observations
- If an observation is to have a multi-purpose focus - the focus should be made clear at least five days before the observation. Ideally however the focus will be shared with staff annually or termly as part of school improvement planning
Protocols for drop-in visits
- Drop-in visits will be linked to the school improvement plan and although details of exact days and times should not be expected, general timings should be known.
- Drop-in visits should ways be acknowledged but there will usually be no individual detailed feedback.
- Evidence and information gained from drop-in visits should be shared with staff through generalised reports.
Training in lesson observations
All staff undertaking observations should have received appropriate training on undertaking the observation and in providing feedback. If the school policy states that Ofsted grades are to be used, staff should be familiar with the application of these grades. Staff should also be trained in PM processes and be given the opportunity to work alongside other observers as part of the training and moderation process.