Messages from Ofsted

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Back in February I was heard Jane Jones @JaneJonesHMI speak at the Maths Hub Forum… Ofsted’s response to ‘teaching for mastery’ is something that many of our schools were interested to hear.  Here are a few of the key messages:

First a bit of background.

Ofsted expect…

… teachers to use their subject and pedagogical expertise to provide high quality teaching and curricular experiences in order to secure the best possible learning and outcomes for their pupils (taken directly from the Sept 2015 handbook).

The NC: A Mastery Curriculum

  • An expectation that all pupils can and will achieve.
  • The large majority of pupils progress through the curriculum content at the same pace. Differentiation emphasises deep knowledge and individual support/intervention.
  • Teaching is underpinned by methodical curriculum design, with units of work that focus in depth on key topics. Lessons and resources are crafted carefully to foster deep conceptual and procedural knowledge.
  • Practice and consolidation play a central role. Well-designed variation builds fluency and understanding of underlying mathematical concepts in tandem.
  • Teachers use precise questioning to check conceptual and procedural knowledge. They assess in lessons to identify who requires intervention so that all pupils keep up.
  • A mastery curriculum often involves whole-class teaching, with all pupils being taught the same concepts at the same time. Small-group work typically involves challenge through greater depth for the ‘rapid graspers’ and support with grasping concepts and methods for pupils who have more difficulty.
  • ‘Intelligent practice’ through tasks and exercises usually concentrates on the same topic/method/concept but varies in how the questions are presented, often in ways that expose the underlying concept or mathematical structure, and makes pupils think deeply for themselves.

Taken directly from the NCETM Developing Mastery in Mathematics Document Oct 2014 which can be found here

There is a lot of further information developing mastery on the NCETM website here

What do you think inspectors expect to see in relation to mathematics teaching?

… would it be different where schools are teaching for mastery?

Below is a snipped from the framework on ‘Inspecting the Impact of the teaching of mathematics’ which can be downloaded here

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Something that Jane Jones asked us back in February was “Are there any of the points in conflict with teaching for mastery?” and the answer is simply no! This was a very positive message from Jane Jones and one that the Maths Hub Leads were very pleased to hear.

“It’s brilliant that acceleration in maths is out and depth is in!”


We need to start seeing the changes to the national curriculum as a positive and start to embrace the opportunities that it affords us. The new National Curriculum:

  • captures, in its aims, the best mathematical education for all pupils;
  • represents greater ambition for all pupils, especially the lower attainers;
  • emphasises depth over acceleration;
  • gives us the chance to think afresh about progression, the wider aims and conceptual links;
  • provides a context for teachers and schools to learn from each other and together.



“Acknowledge the challenges then set about overcoming them.”

The following challenges were highlighted to us in February by Jane Jones. I believe these were the result of the 2014-15 primary subject survey that was carried out by Ofsted. It’s positive that Ofsted are aware of the challenges faced by school leadership teams and teachers.

  • Teachers’ subject expertise:
    • ‘new’ mathematics content
    • the NC aims: how to teach reasoning, problem solving for all/the ‘rapid graspers’; the meaning of fluency
  • Expectations and progression:
    • gaps between where pupils are now and the programme of study they are learning/due to learn
    • higher demand, especially for lower attainers and SEN
    • differentiation; challenge for the ‘rapid graspers’
  • Teachers’ worries about demonstrating pupils’ progress:
    • in lessons
    • for performance management/inspection
  • Assessment without NC levels, and the quality of national assessments
  • Transition between: schools, key stages, one year to the next, one lesson to the next, one mathematical idea to the next, …
  • Capacity:
    • recruitment and retention of suitably qualified staff and subject leaders
    • availability of local/in-school expert help




“In the past differentiation was often achieved by a teacher preparing different activities or worksheets for different groups of pupils. Now there are other ways, consistent with the new curriculum and a mastery approach, of catering for different attainment levels within a classroom.”

Critically the message that was given to us is that Ofsted want to see challenge through depth and support through intervention.

It’s no longer about five different groups in the class all learning and doing different things based on their ability… There is huge scope for saving time here and by saving time, teachers can spend time planning great lessons!



”We need to get workload in proportion. Teachers are spending time marking when they should be planning quality lessons.”

This was a revalation to many at the forum back in February! Jane told us a story about her daughter or niece(?) either way the crux of it was – it’s such a waste of time highlighting childrens work in rainbow colours, you marking in red, expecting them to respond in green etc. TEACHERS SHOULD BE PLANNING GREAT LESSONS NOT WASTING TIME MARKING!! That said, she highlighted to us what it says in the Ofsted handbook…

Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.

In other words, if the school policy says ‘highlight in rainbow colours’ and ‘children respond to a learning question in green’ then Ofsted must check that is what the teachers and students are doing.

The NCETM have just published some useful guidance on marking in maths which can be downloaded here NCETM Primary Marking Guidance April 2016

So… maybe it’s time schools reviewed their marking policies!! There’s only so much time in the day, and it’s important that the precious time teachers do have is spent doing what is going to make the biggest difference to their students.

This was the final quote from Jane Jones at the forum back in February – so true!!

”If it’s not useful, don’t do it… definitely don’t do it for Ofsted!”

Click here to download the powerpoint from the spring conference Session 1 – AD Ofsted

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