“Satisfactory” teaching. What is it?

 Award-winning teacher and occasional contributor to the columns of The Guardian, Phil Beadle has written an excellent piece  in today’s edition of the paper explaining why teachers whose performance is judged as being “satisfactory” are right to be worried about what that really means.

When I first started sitting at the back of other teachers’ lessons, pretending I was capable of doing all the things in a single lesson that I was judging them on, the task was to allocate one of seven grades. These went from “excellent”, through “very good” and “good”‘, to “satisfactory” and its spindlier brother “unsatisfactory”, from thence into the dark realms of “poor” and “very poor”.

No more. What should we read into the change to the bald four grades currently in use, where lessons are either “outstanding”, “good”, “satisfactory” or “inadequate”? We conclude that “excellence” is no longer enough. “Good” is a broad church. “Satisfactory” means little better than the level beneath it. And you can’t dip your toes into “unsatisfactory” any more; you are immediately and summarily deemed “inadequate”. ………………………

…………..There are no degrees of “unsatisfactory” performance any more, just pass and fail. Where, prior to this narrowing (which I believe is referred to in Ofsted circles as “rigour”), management teams might be able to look at the data and differentiate between teachers who’d just had an off lesson and those who may want to consider alternative employment, these two groups are now lumped together in special measures.

The further impact of the terminally emphatic “inadequate”, rather than the less pejorative and more temporary sounding “unsatisfactory”, is that it causes inspectors, who are human after all, a moment’s hesitation. This will mean that many teachers who receive a “satisfactory” judgment under the current regime would previously have been judged “unsatisfactory”.



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