Ofsted’s blog: Inspections early in the school year

18th October 2016 at 14:40

Sarah Hubbard, HMI, Ofsted’s National Lead for English, explains that there is always evidence to show inspectors whatever time of year you’re inspected

Leaders sometimes tell me that an Ofsted inspection never comes at the right time, adding that they think that early in a new academic year is definitely the wrong time.  

Sean Harford and others have tweeted and blogged about schools doing what is right for their pupils – not doing things just to please Ofsted. If you adopt this mantra, there is no wrong time for inspection. You will be doing what you need to do anyway, regardless of when you might receive a visit from us.

Ofsted blog, Inspections early in the school year

I also understand that schools want to have the opportunity to tell us their story and make sure any nuances are clearly understood. This is especially important now, with so many different approaches to assessment.

Please don’t worry if, early in the term, pupils’ books are not full of work. Remember that Ofsted has no expectations about the amount of work or the type of work we see.

Don’t suddenly change what you do when you get ‘the call’ and frantically schedule in a writing task. If, when I’m inspecting, I want to tease out how a school has developed pupils’ writing, I tend to ask the school about the best way of doing this. After all, we’re all on the same side, trying to do our best for children and young people.

I am more than happy to see last year’s work if you’ve held onto it, look at work on walls, and talk with the pupils about their experiences. One thing I have found useful, given the changes to the way we assess, is suggesting that leaders do a ‘show and tell’. I ask them to ‘walk me’ through a sample of pupils’ work to identify what they have done and how well it has worked. I find that by doing this, leaders’ analysis is more detailed and perceptive.

The focus of our discussions is curriculum development, the role of assessment, pupils’ acquisition of knowledge, skills and the progress being made. It’s definitely not marking. And yes, I do check out if the practice leaders tell me about is having a consistent impact across the school – wouldn’t you do the same?

I love visiting schools whatever the time of year and I hope schools will welcome us through the doors this autumn, understanding that there really is no wrong time for an inspection.