What can we infer from an exercise book?

Matthew Evans

My recent experience of an Ofsted inspector at work has made me think long and hard about what can reliably be inferred from looking at exercise books.

The current Ofsted framework seems to rely very heavily on inspectors using books as evidence of standards of teaching, learning and assessment. This approach has arisen in response to the acceptance that observing teachers is a highly unreliable way of judging standards. Inspectors will now look for ‘progress over time’ instead of progress within a twenty minute observation. The proxy measure for whether students are making progress is what can be seen in the students’ books; whether that be the work produced or the ‘effect’ of the feedback given by teachers.

I accompanied our lead inspector on visits to lessons during our recent inspection. In the first lesson we visited he gathered the students’ books and selected six to look at; three Pupil…

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