Poachers turned gamekeepers
Ofsted Inspectors are in a unique position as they inspect providers and are also inspected themselves. For Ofsted it’s a huge benefit. As Julie Winyard, Ofsted’s lead trainer for schools, says, “Having serving practitioners working as Ofsted Inspectors (OIs), means we gain a different perspective. They have up-to-date knowledge in areas such as assessment without levels.
“Being on the frontline they can see the bigger picture, especially how schools are interpreting government guidance. The introduction of OIs working alongside Her Majesty’s Inspectors has been positive all round, for Ofsted as well as the practitioners.”
Current OIs, Jeremy Rowe and Clare Fletcher tell us about the benefits it brings for them.
“It helps you to be objective and evaluate your own practice. I have never been to a school without picking up something – it’s a huge privilege and huge responsibility.
“I recommend it to people all the time. It’s critical for our own development and the integrity of inspections. And it offers a very important perspective on teaching day in, day out – that’s really important. It also gives me a better understanding of context and how the framework is applied neutrally.
“I think headteachers are more supportive of the inspection process when they know there are people on the team who haven’t lost the day-to-day experience. I think you need both OIs and Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) on an inspection. We bring our current practice to bear and HMI have that laser sharp ability to analysis.”
Jeremy Rowe, head teacher of Sir John Leman High School in Beccles and Executive Principal at Alde Valley Academy.
“Acting as an OI has helped me spread the message to other headteachers I work with. Looking at the ‘big picture’ from an Ofsted perspective made me aware that inspection isn’t the box ticking exercise it had initially appeared to be.
“The opportunities I’ve had to refine my own skills in observations, discussions, and work scrutiny for example have given me a clearer understanding of how inspection judgements can be made. And all that means that I have been a more effective headteacher. I now understand why things are done in a particular way, which impacts positively on my own practice in school.
“I’ve also been able to reflect back some home truths too – so life in school as it really is can be appreciated by those who glide in and out.
“Recently I worked on an 8-week project with 12 handpicked schools, which highlighted to me that the school improvement process is never straightforward. I’ve come to realise that the smallest things can make a big change, such as setting key milestones to demonstrate success every week. Working on the project highlighted to me the different aspects of school improvement.
“I learn from others and take ideas back to my own school – for example getting infants to use real money to ‘pay’ for their fruit snack in the morning to embed their maths skills, or discovering how to develop strategies to help teachers with their marking workload. Looking at this through the lenses of a headteacher and an OI gives me a great perspective from both sides. I’ve also been able to share the new ideas and skills I’ve learnt back at school with my senior staff; so I’m building their capacity as leaders too.
“Being a practitioner also helps me on inspection. I can appreciate how the staff will be feeling and know what I can do or say to alleviate some of the stress. I try to help them see inspection as a positive experience, even if the outcome is not what they wanted."
Clare Fletcher, executive headteacher, North Walsham Junior, Infant School and Nursery Federation.
If you’d like more information about how to become an Ofsted Inspector please email us.