In October, I published a post on the process of obtaining lesson observation notes from the school’s Ofsted monitoring visit in the summer.  Although I’d succeeded – eventually, via the Data Protection Act and an appeal to the Information Commissioner – I concluded by noting that Ofsted’s letter to me:

Affirmed that, as information created by Ofsted, the notes are Crown Copyright and may not be republished without permission.  Whether this relates to my initial publication of Evidence Forms, I’m unsure.  I’ll ask if I can publish them, but the whole premise of this post – that teachers should obtain (and share) their lesson observation notes to throw light on inspections, falls by the wayside if permission is routinely denied.

It even reached the pages of the paper formerly known as Academies Week, which quoted Tim Turner, a data protection law expert, thus:

It is a defensive move, precisely to inhibit people from sharing information. But there is no public interest in preventing the sharing of this information, and it would be of no loss to Ofsted if this was published.

I wrote to Ofsted, asking for permission to publish, but had misunderstood the nuances of copyright law: they said it was up to The National Archives (as custodians of Crown Copyright).  I wandered around The National Archives’ website trying to work out what the law meant and whether the notes fell under the Open Government Licence, before giving up and emailing them.

It wasn’t exactly clear to The National Archives either, because their first response was that it fell under the Open Government Licence.  I double-checked with them, and received the following:

On behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office I can confirm that there are no objections from a Crown copyright point of view to you publishing it and if you, as the sole subject, are content for your personal data to be published then you may do so.  All we would ask is that you acknowledge the observation itself as being Crown copyright.

I queried further, asking for a statement of principles, to avoid everyone having to go through the same process.  Any teacher is free to publish their observation notes:

There would be no objection from a Crown copyright point of view, it all depends on whether the data subject is content or not.


Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 08.59.29
Observation notes from an observation of a Year 7 history lesson last July with by Mark Phillips, HMI (Crown Copyright).
2.15pm 7 History
T[eacher] presented ‘Dept Handbook’.  Extensive inclusion [?] of personal blogs and printouts form distractions – interesting, shows commendable professional involvement but acts asa a [?] statement rather than a strategic planning document.  An additional file of blogs including blogs about the S5 inspection.  Again, purpose of this (given to HMI in this context) unclear.
Student files
Some evidence of extended writing, but heavily worksheet dependent.  Teaching seen (in brief visit) is purposeful, serious and shows good S[ubject] K[nowledge].  Students appear enthused and most participate well, without [?] with T[eacher].  Some off-task chatter when [?].  Writing task is heavily scaffolded for all.

What can we learn?

I’ve always been interested in how feedback from different individuals on the same question can push teachers in diametrically opposed directions.  Whereas an inspector in February had noted that: “Teacher’s prep. & planning excellent, including blog on how he aims to improve teaching in ‘classroom & beyond’!” in this case, the HMI said it was “unclear” what the purpose of handing him a copy of the blog.  (I resent this somewhat, since the purpose was printed on the front page, and I made time to ask if he had any questions – he said not).

I’m also curious as to how an observer recognises good subject knowledge if they are not a historian – but perhaps it’s churlish to complain.  I missed the off-task chatter – but there you go.

Get publishing.

My observation notes from our Section 5, a year ago.

The process of getting hold of observation notes.