The Big Question: What's the alternative to snap inspections?

Each week, we speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world. Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate.

Most parents want ‘snap inspections’ in schools, according to a recent Mori poll. Commissioned by Ofsted, the survey shows that 65% of parents would prefer inspections to take place at less than two days’ notice.

However, over three-quarters of headteachers disagreed with the idea of ‘no-notice’ inspections and 70% of teachers were also against it, according to a different Ofsted poll.

The school inspection regime is expected to be overhauled in September this year and known (predicted?) changes include reducing the frequency of inspection for high-performing schools. Other ideas include linking minimum exam benchmarks to inspection gradings.

What should be the future of inspections? What’s the alternative to snap inspections?

See No notice visits to get trial run

“Snap inspections do very little to improve education. The answer is to let headteachers carry out self evaluation and call in the inspectors to verify that they are on target with their judgments. Ofsted could also be called in to inspect specific areas of the school which the headteacher feels needs to be highlighted as a beacon area or where s/he feels that more input is required and Ofsted could validate that decision. This does mean that more specialist inspectors would be required. It would also negate the present horrendous school grading system which relies on snapshots to judge the performance of dedicated professionals and hard-working kids who may just be off the mark when the snapshot is taken (ever been snapped looking like a dork?).”
Alan Watkins-Grove, English intervention teacher, secondary


“I have no objection to ‘snap’ inspections in principal. It is the interpretation of the evidence of such inspections which concerns me. Inspectors will have to be aware that not every lesson is ‘all singing all dancing’. The temptation at present is for teachers to teach their best ‘showpiece’ lesson for inspectors, having prepared it some time earlier. The truth is that some perfectly good lessons are quite simple and may not ‘tick the boxes’ in every instance. The other side of the coin is that currently, in many cases, inspectors are gaining a false impression that the lessons they are observing are the norm”
Iain Murdoch, secondary school teacher


“How about doing away with Ofsted? How about going back to local authority inspections with additional support from Her Majesty’s Inspectors? What about professional trust and self regulation? What about an organic evolving service based on local needs, demands and service levels and responses? Snap inspections equal snap responses-What happened to self evaluation”
Dr Len Parkyn Senior teacher, secondary phase, special needs.