Why I’ll Never Be Outstanding!


Once upon a time in the not to distant past I strived to be an outstanding teacher. I wanted to be the inspirational educator students told their future kids about. Okay, I was young and naive back then but it was where I aimed to be.

After 13 years in the job I now know that, according to Ofsted criteria, I will never be outstanding and for the following reasons:

1. I don’t care about QMA (Quality Mark Assesment) sheets being completed in their books. I have taught them, marked their books, marked their tests, returned their tests with feedback and spoke to kids individually about their results. I have congratulated the students who have done well whilst trying to encourage and support the students who have been disappointed. Now having recorded their scores in my planner and inputted them on the computer I am now told if a separate sheet isn’t also filled in to be stuck in students book (bearing in mind they already have the original tests in their books with the score) I am to be deemed inadequate! (I hate that word!)

2. I like students to feel happy and safe in my classroom. I have always prided myself on making my lessons somewhere students feel comfortable and I fully appreciate not all kids are going to love my subject but I want them to feel they will be supported whilst in my room. On my most recent lesson observation this is now considered a negative, students should be pushed/challenged and they can’t do this whilst being “comfortable.” I very much disagree!

3. I want to know my students and build a relationship with them. If we spend 5 minutes of lesson time talking about what they watched last night or what they’re planning to do at the weekend, so what? In my experience, getting to know your students ultimately leads to better lessons and better learning.

4. I will always put the child before their target! I care more about the child as an individual than I do about their grade target. When hearing a member of our SLT talk about a student going through a particularly difficult time at home I couldn’t believe it. Their thoughts weren’t, “oh, that poor girl, what can we do to support her”, but “well, she won’t get her target grade now, will she?”. I will do everything I can to help a student achieve their full potential but this doesn’t always tie in with what their target grade is, often based on tests they sat in primary schools several years previously!

5. I would rather spend my time planning lessons than ticking and flicking their books. Don’t get me wrong, books need to be marked but a disproportionate amount of time is being spent marking (because it is something that Ofsted can check) rather than planning great lessons. Members of my department are marking every night of the week until 10/11pm just to keep to our SLT schedule because that is all we are judged on. A member of SLT could walk in on a lesson you’ve spent 2 hours planning, but if you’re books aren’t up to date, you are yet again deemed to be inadequate.

6. I don’t believe that students should have to show progress in 30 minutes. I care about students progressing, whether that takes 30 minutes or 3 hours! I know my class better than anyone and to have someone come in and make a judgement within 30 minutes about how much they have progressed is largely insulting. Ask me about my class and I will answer any question you have (see point 3), I can tell you about the progress of every one of my students, but if you can’t show that to a stranger in 30 minutes, yet again, you are inadequate!

Education is no longer about the children, but about targets. And whilst it continues to be this way we do them a disservice. Kids are not pieces of data on a spreadsheet to be manipulated to make the schools look good. They’re not daft, they know which members of staff genuinely care about them and who don’t, and I know who they respond to better.

There gets a point when you can only do so much before saying enough is enough. I have a family and they come first. Whilst I still value spending quality time with my own family, whilst I still want to know what my pupils are getting for a Christmas, whilst I will still spend my last lesson before the holidays doing a quiz (which my classes remember far more than one of my “proper” lessons) an Ofsted outstanding teacher I am not?

So for the foreseeable future I will never be outstanding and to be honest I’ve given up trying.


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  1. February 25, 2015 / 9:28 am

    Your education posts often make me sad Jo. We clearly need more teachers like you but you’re all being driven out (or at least falling out of love) with the profession because of this kind of crap. My neighbour quit his teaching job in his 2nd year due to reasons you mention. You’re clearly amazing at what you do, and I’m sure you’ve made a real difference in many kids lives. That’s better than being Ofsted Outstanding in my opinion xx #SWM
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  2. February 25, 2015 / 9:31 am

    oooooooooooooooooh don’t get me started! As a fellow teacher I agree with you wholeheartedly! These men in suits sitting in parliament have a lot to answer for. Children will always be my number one priority. I am doing supply now and I love it- no more of the nonsense, just children. x
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  3. February 25, 2015 / 9:31 am

    Fantastic blog post Jo, although makes me feel so sad 🙁 The education/Oftsed bods need to read this and WISE UP. Why is no one GETTING that most of us parents think like you do, and not like them? HOW are these people in positions of power when they don’t seem to have a clue? I am getting madder and madder thinking about it. There are so many great teachers out there but they’re being driven away from the profession by this lunacy. When I read what you’ve written, it really makes me consider homeschooling- which I know for my sanity would be madness, but it really does make me think about it! xx
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  4. Life as we know it
    February 25, 2015 / 10:35 am

    Fantastic post. You are outstanding in my eyes. If more teachers were like you I’m sure education would be in a much better state. It saddens me that the focus is so much on grades and meeting targets and less on the emotional well being of the students. A happy supported student will do try their hardest and that is all that matters really x #sharewithme
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  5. Jenny
    February 25, 2015 / 11:19 am

    Oh hunny for everything that you listed here it sure sounds to me like you are more than an OUTSTANDING teacher already. While I don’t get the whole OFSTED thing being an American I have seen schools for Buba lately that say outstanding and aren’t even close to it in person. I wish more teachers were like you and there should be more like you and then everyone would be outstanding! lol IN a perfect world huh babes? I love that you love teaching so much. It’s beautiful. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme
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  6. February 25, 2015 / 11:19 am

    I could have written this. I am also a teacher and fed up of the target setting and goal posts changing. Constantly question why I am still a teacher and not sure that I always know. It is total madness out there at the moment and made to fail teachers (and students). But you are doing what is right for your students and that is what matters most. You are amazing x
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  7. Life at the Little Wood
    February 25, 2015 / 12:12 pm

    Oh Jo, I totally get this! You are so right about how important it is to build proper working relationships with your pupils. I found that the classes I spent some time chatting to, were always the ones that did better in the end. Kids are inherently people pleasers – if they like you, they will want to come to class, listen better and therefore achieve better results. Teachers are in an impossible situation, where short term goals are placed over long term ones, and where Pastoral care doesn’t get much of a look-in anymore. It’s very sad indeed! Brilliant post luvvie xx

  8. February 25, 2015 / 12:19 pm

    This post breaks my heart. First because I know exactly what you mean and I support you 100%, both as a former teacher and as a parent of three who sees the ridiculously excessive reliance on testing. And second, because it’s just the same here in the States. I realize I’m a leftist liberal, but I suspect that the obsession about scores and testing is tied up with the complete lack of empathy and humanity in ruling ultra-conservative politicians (who would honestly prefer not to fund education at all).

  9. February 25, 2015 / 12:38 pm

    Well I’d love my son to have a teacher like you! It’s frightening to see the direction education has gone in under Ofsted and the pressure our children and teachers experience in the name of ‘targets’. If only they could walk a mile in your shoes, maybe they’d get it. Wonderful post, well done for standing up for what you feel passionately about. xx
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  10. February 25, 2015 / 3:14 pm

    Just like there’s no way to be a perfect mom but plenty of ways to be a good one, the same thing is true for teachers. Thanks for everything you do!

    #share with me
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  11. Potty Mouthed Mummy
    February 25, 2015 / 3:21 pm

    I would have killed for a teacher like you who actually gave a damn about me rather than just focusing on the Oxford and Cambridge potential students. You’re wonderful Jo and I’ll bet your students adore you xxx
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  12. The Pinterested Parentt
    February 25, 2015 / 6:54 pm

    Tell me where you teach, because I want you to be my daughter’s teacher. It frightens me how much pressure is on school aged children these days. There need s to be more like you.
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  13. February 26, 2015 / 1:59 pm

    You said it yourself in your very first sentence – your definition (the one that counts) of “outstanding” is “inspirational” and I applaud you for holding on to that belief when you’re clearly up against such a huge negative tide of I’ll conceived target driven scrutiny. EJ’s childminder was recently marked down to “needs improvement” because she was unable to produce one child’s learning documentation (which was with his parents). I think that is so unfair and gives a false impression of her capabilities. I feel for all of you who have to be judged by such narrow minded criteria. X
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  14. February 27, 2015 / 3:52 am

    The very fact that you have written this, that you feel this, shows what an outstanding teacher you are. You will be the teacher they remember x
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  16. HonestMum
    February 27, 2015 / 10:24 am

    You are an incredible teaching who puts their students first. All the bureaucracy is why we have a teacher shortage crisis. Thanks for sharing x
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  17. Jenni - Odd Socks and Lollipops
    February 27, 2015 / 12:01 pm

    Sounds like you are an outstanding teacher to me! Students should always come before targets, and I always enjoyed and learnt most from the lessons of the teachers who made the lessons about us students and not about ticking boxes etc.
    Ah such amazing memories from ALevel English and GCSE history with crazy teachers who made being there fun!! Thank you for sharing
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  18. February 27, 2015 / 12:48 pm

    This is such a great post. You ARE one of those outstanding teachers. One of those teachers that is in it for the right reason – the children. You are one of those teachers that I really long for to teach my children One who will see and appreciate them for what they are. One who will educate the WHOLE child and not just focus on the academic. Keep fighting for what is right. I left teaching 5 years ago, when I had my first child, my husband is a teacher. He is up til midnight each night, marking and preparing lesson plans. It KILLS me that teaching is becoming more and more about paperwork and targets than it is about seeing an individual reach their individual potential!
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  19. February 27, 2015 / 1:37 pm

    Oh my, this is wonderfully refreshing to read. As a parent, i would LOVE to know that my children have teachers like you. Since when did the government come first? The child should be first. Always. I am so disillusioned by the state of our education at the moment. I feel sorry for teachers who have so much admin dumped on them that they are stressed and our children are being neglected/snapped at. It’s just not right. So thankful for the odd teacher how bucks the trend, like you. Thinking of relocating at all?! x
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  20. February 27, 2015 / 2:54 pm

    I feel your pain, its very similar even low down in Primary. I teach year one and have to show progress for a 5 year old in 30 minutes, it’s crazy. It might take more than 30 minutes for them to grasp a new concept. We get assessed on the feedback that is put in our books which is ridiculous as half of them can’t read what you are putting and even when using symbols still need it explaining, I always give verbal feedback but it’s only the physical feedback that is considered. It all winds me up so much! xx
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  21. February 27, 2015 / 5:40 pm

    I really do think schools and f*%k-OFSTEAD only care about grades and results because that’s what brings in the funding I suspect. I have a condition which means I struggle with sequencing making spelling difficult and math almost impossible, I have poor co-ordination, limited concentration and a shocking memory make learning in the ‘normal’ way seriously challenging. Non of this was picked up by my school. They just kept asking my parents why I kept zoning out in class and getting low grades when, upon talking to me I seemed really bright. You sound like a fantastic teacher, that I would have been proud to have!

  22. Beth Twinderelmo
    February 27, 2015 / 9:19 pm

    I think by thinking and being all of these things you are far from inadequate. I would always try harder for a teacher like you who made you feel more than a number on a piece of paper. Your students ultimately will respect you more & I’m glad you don’t try to be an ofsteds dream teacher and be one of the ones theyll remember !
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  23. February 27, 2015 / 11:31 pm

    Yes! Yes! Yes!
    As a parent you are the “inadequate” teacher I want for my children.
    As a teacher you are the “inadequate” teacher with whom I stand shoulder to shoulder in agreement x
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  24. March 1, 2015 / 10:00 pm

    I am currently working towards my degree and I want to teach at the end of it. I have always worked with children and love every second of getting to know them and working with them to achieve their best, not what they SHOULD be achieving. Who are the people who set the targets of what all children should be achieving? Are they the same people who say that we need to treat all children as individuals and not the same? Equal opportunities? Yet we are pushing lower ability children much to hard to the point where they may end up struggling much more than they should be, higher ability children not pushed enough and getting bored. There is no consistency in the “rules”.

    You are the kind of teacher that I aspire to be, one that cares more about the children than the label!
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  25. Dominique Simpson
    April 10, 2015 / 12:28 pm

    This is just how I feel, I am planning on leaving my part time job to go onto supply and explore other avenues. It just doesn’t get me excited now compared to when I first started.
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    • April 11, 2015 / 8:43 am

      Me neither, which makes me really sad. I’m starting to explore other options now. Good luck x

  26. Emma
    May 13, 2015 / 8:55 pm

    Very interesting read.
    Ofsted is obviously an important organisation but I do wish they would work WITH teachers and not against them. I totally agree with you, teaching is ALL about your relationship with the students. If you get this right and plan interesting and engaging lessons then in my opinion, you are OUTSTANDING. Students do not want robotic teaching machines who are more focused on targets. Ofsted sometimes seems to forget this and that the kids we are teaching are actually people. Some lessons they will make outstanding progress and sometimes they might make no progress at all! The teacher might have planned the most outstanding lesson ever but just like us kids have bad days. I had a student who was renowned to be difficult but I had built such a good relationship that I knew if we had a bad lesson she would come back and work outside of school lessons…Ofsted would never see this! Thank you for reposting this, I missed it the first time round and really pleased I didn’t this time! x
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