Dan Lambert is one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI). Before this, he was an Ofsted Inspector (OI) and before that, a headteacher. Here, he describes the different roles and why he decided to make the leap from schools into the inspectorate.
Having completed my NQT year, I moved to middle, then senior, leadership posts. I finally secured a headship in a successful junior school. I quickly realised that the life of a headteacher is never dull. Every day, there were successes, surprises and challenges. I enjoyed talking to pupils about their work and to staff about the pupils' learning and how it could be supported to achieve even more.
Headteachers know their school’s strengths and weaknesses. However, there is no formula for running a school. Each day, you have to make decisions based on your professional opinion and experience.
A teacher or member of support staff can have a huge impact on a child’s confidence, self-esteem and life chances. All those who work in schools are, in my mind, heroes. They work tirelessly for the right reasons, helping children and young people achieve their best. I loved teaching. I am, and always will be, proud to have been a teacher.
In 2015, Ofsted changed the way it worked with inspectors. Rather than using third-party providers, Ofsted began to train and manage its non-employed inspection workforce – now called Ofsted Inspectors. As part of this move, Ofsted recruited a high proportion of current practitioners to work alongside HMI, while still leading schools. The opportunity to develop as a leader and to see how different schools operate excited me. So I took the plunge.
Becoming an inspector
I applied to become an OI and completed an online assessment. That was challenging. On my laptop, I recorded, considered and evaluated information about a school; all skills required of inspectors. Following that, I attended training in London. HMI trained us in the skills we needed to gather evidence, share our findings and evaluate the available information to form accurate judgements.
HMI and experienced OIs guided me once I started inspecting. I received regular, high-quality training opportunities that honed and refined my inspection skills. I applied these in my day job. I became a better school leader because my evaluations were sharper and my understanding of how good schools operate broadened. Importantly, I learned that there are no ‘tricks’ to inspection. As Sean Harford, national director of education, has said: ‘The best way to secure a good judgement is to run a good school.’
I enjoyed the inspection work. I learned something in every school I visited. Regardless of the eventual outcome, there are always staff in schools who work hard and do their best for the right reasons.
The inspectors I worked with were knowledgeable, professional and humble. I felt that every school I worked with was left in a better place to improve because of the inspection process. Due to this, I decided to apply to become an HMI.
Making the move to HMI
The process of becoming an HMI is like that of becoming an OI. In this role, professional knowledge, high standards of conduct and excellent communication skills are essential. I completed assessment activities and had face-to-face interviews.
Induction for HMI is thorough and very interesting. We learned not how only to lead inspections, but also about the wider roles Ofsted undertakes. During this time, I had extensive opportunities to shadow experienced inspectors and to discuss my development with my line manager and HMI mentor.
After passing my probation, I was leading inspections on my own. I’ve enjoyed the range of the role and the opportunity to work with lots of great teachers, leaders and support staff. Most importantly, I still get to meet with and make a difference to the lives of the children and young people who are at the heart of the inspection process.
I’ve had opportunities to engage in specific projects. For example, I am now the link HMI to a local authority. I share information with them on the performance of the schools within their area. I give support to a group of 14 OIs to help them improve their inspection work.
Earlier this year, I collaborated with Lorin LaFave of The Breck Foundation to deliver a webinar on internet safety to around 850 people. Inspecting safeguarding is an important element of each inspection and Ofsted has always focused on how effectively schools keep children safe. In recent years, the need to help children stay safe online has become of paramount importance in schools.
Successful organisations thrive when they get the best out of their staff. I’m amazed at the breadth of knowledge and experience in the workforce at Ofsted and I’m proud and humbled to count myself among them. I know that every one of my colleagues is here for the right reason: to improve the lives of children and young people.