Planning – pressure points?

Ask any teacher what is one of their biggest challenges and they will say that it is lesson planning. While some of this pressure results from a misconception about what inspectors will want to see, most of it is self-inflicted and some of it results from expectations that headteachers have of their teachers’ planning.

Ofsted is quite clear that inspectors will not expect plans to follow any specification. Their latest ‘clarification’ document makes clear that:

  • Ofsted does not require schools to provide individual lesson plans to inspectors. Equally, Ofsted does not require schools to provide previous lesson plans.
  • Ofsted does not specify how planning should be set out, the length of time it should take or the amount of detail it should contain. Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.

School leaders are gradually coming round to the view that planning is up to the teacher – it’s the effectiveness of the teaching that matters, not the quality of the panning. However, some headteachers are still nervous about planning and require their teachers to plan in a set format. If the school is moving out of a category then there may be a case for policing the quality of planning but really teachers should be given a much freer rein about how they plan. However, this is an issue for the school to resolve and teachers may have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous planning for some time to come.

No matter how it is done, of course, planning is essential to effective teaching and this is why conscientious teachers often put themselves under such pressure. And, for teachers in training or in their induction year, there is usually little alternative. But the reality of planning is that the layout really does not matter. What matters is that the plan helps the teacher to teach well.

An effective lesson plan will contain some key elements. These are usually a combination of:-

  • A learning objective that captures the core of the lesson and focuses on the specific knowledge, skills or concepts that pupils will learn.
  • The key vocabulary of the lesson.
  • The way the learning will be scaffolded to meet the needs of the least confident pupils.
  • How learning will be deepened for pupils with high learning potential.
  • An outline of the structure of the lesson (with timings if necessary)
  • Where the assessment opportunities lie and how learning will be assessed.

The days of a teacher being able to wing it and get by on bluff are gone.  Teachers Standard 4 makes clear the expectation that teachers need to plan as well as teach But there is no doubt that planning does not need to be the complex and time-consuming process it often becomes. There are some effective ways to plan smartly and we will look at these in due course.

Over the next few blogs we will unpack this list in more detail


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