Why monitoring is a good thing & why many schools get it wrong

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My school has developed a system of monitoring which is the best I’ve ever experienced or seen in a school. It’s not perfect  but is the most efficient and effective model I’ve seen. As a leader, whilst it takes time, it is a part of my job I enjoy because it means I’m engaging with my department’s core work; the teaching and learning of our students

Why monitoring is a good thing

In most jobs there is a minimum expectation of staff; the things they’re employed to do that contribute to them fulfilling their role. Monitoring is the process of checking these are being done.

Whilst many people do this badly, there are some benefits to doing it well:

  • It values people’s work
  • It gives an opportunity to discuss ideas
  • It ensures the leader is engaging with colleagues
  • It promotes consistency within departments and across the school
  • It gives an overall picture of teaching and learning across the school without the need for grades
  • It’s relatively quick, efficient and fair

 

If you’ve read thus far and thought ‘this is a load of rubbish’, there’s a good chance that you’ve experienced one or more of the following:

Why many schools get it wrong

They do it for the wrong reasons

Getting any teacher to do something for Ofsted is wrong. Doing it for the Governors is wrong.

It takes too long or time isn’t given to staff to complete it

If it’s important then staff will be given time to do it. Consider that whole staff meeting where staff were talked at for an hour about something that could have fitted into an email. Just think what a leader could have done to work with colleagues in this time.

It’s inconsistent. 

“My head of department doesn’t do that”

“I hope I get Mr X watching my lesson, he’s nice”

Phrases that undermine an effective system.

It’s done by the ‘wrong’ person

The best model is the for the teacher and their direct line manager to engage in this. SLT should be monitoring the monitoring not doing the monitoring (unless they’re the line manager).

Staff complete paperwork/ do things to meet the system instead of the system being used to analyse what is being done anyway

If staff are spending hours preparing for monitoring rather than preparing for teaching there’s something seriously wrong with your system.

It allocates grades

Why? Why do people grade their teachers? One answer, “for a spreadsheet to ‘show’ Ofsted”. Utter nonsense.

It’s too subjective 

When discussing the ‘quality’ of something, personal opinion will always come in. An effective system will remove that as much as possible. ‘Has it been done or not?’ makes things more objective.

The wrong things are looked at

Is there any point looking at planning if what is being delivered bears no resemblance? Is it worth observing someone for 20 minutes with a class they see once and fortnight?

They’re irregular/infrequent

Put them on a calendar and stick to them. SLT monitoring should be checking this. A teacher should know when it is happening; no ‘gotcha’ moments.

The policies are inefficient, over complicated and unreasonable 

This is where most of you that think monitoring is not a good thing will probably have the issue.

  • Your marking policy is unworkable.
  • You teach RE and teach 600 students.
  •  Your feedback requires you to write more than the student did in the first place.
  • You’re required to enter data onto a spreadsheet twice a half term.
  • You have to hand in your planning a week in advance (when you won’t even know if the students will have covered the previous work).
  • You are observed and have to prove that students have made progress in 20 minutes.
  • Every teacher is expected to everything the same way even though their subject is completely different

These are why monitoring isn’t valued in by many teachers. Policies written by people who’ve forgotten what it’s really like to teach 18 classes or never have done.

 

Monitoring is really important in a school. If done well it contributes to teacher development, if done badly, it’s a reason why many teachers leave a school and for some, leave the profession.

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2 thoughts on “Why monitoring is a good thing & why many schools get it wrong

  1. Thank you for this well expressed and very much needed run down of how monitoring should be done.

    Unfortunately, your list of reasons why teachers have an issue with monitoring seems to be a “how to” guide for most schools (especially those currently suffering the Ofsted curse of category 4). This is why I’ve left full time English teaching and why almost every other English teacher I know has also left or is making plans to by the end of this academic year.

    Somebody please stop the madness of Ofsted tick box monitoring and scrutiny.

  2. In principle, the Idea of monitoring is brilliant. It suggests that people can reflect on their own practice and make changes if required and if deemed the right thing to do. Trouble is, the mechanism is used to bring teachers down and highlight their weaknesses. It is often carried out by people who don’t even know how to monitor because the very idea of it is not researched or looked into. It is often focussed on book scrutiny, lessons observations, learning walks and fails to take into th account the bigger picture. Why is marking sporadic around the school? Why is certain lessons better than others? Why is displays that promote learning dated etc?

    Many schools are fearing ofsted, senior leaders and their jobs. How can anybody work in this environment? Teachers often close their doors because of fear of losing credibility. Teachers stop taking risks and go down the tick box scenario. I fear for this profession because for every weak teacher there is someone who is brilliant working within the same parameters doing a better job. Difference being that confidence is high, leadership is reflective etc etc. I have seen so many top class idiots becoming managers and trying to enforce their ideas on others and then using capability to bring them down. I have seen teachers reduced to tears, stress, depression etc. Teachers are expected to do everything such as coordinate multiple subjects, offer after school provision, tend to parents needs, submit data, mark books frequently. It never stops. Of course these are all important issues and part of the job but not one person is overseeing how these demands effect the quality of the teacher on show.

    Managers will often say you are doing too much but offer no alternative. I quit last year and it was the best thing I ever did. I love education in its raw form but when you are fighting a system whose own Govenrment offer token gestures in terms of well being and In compete denial, you are fighting a losing battle.

    I hope my point is clear. This country and Govenrment needs to wake up. Marking is relentless (of course there are better methods), unions need to offer more support and shout from the roof tops, it needs to be united and take power back by supporting each other. Have a system whereby teachers can reflect on their teaching.

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