Ofsted's blog: Sean Harford at the SSAT conference

13th December 2016 at 12:43

Updating on Ofsted and debunking myths

I was very pleased to be able to accept an invite to attend the SSAT National Conference in Birmingham on the 1-2 Dec. My session gave an update on Ofsted’s work and I talked about some of the myths around inspection. It was encouraging to see so many attendees at my session as I believe engagement between Ofsted and the people whose work is affected by inspection is essential.

An overview

Those of you who were in Birmingham will know I laid the groundwork about inspection before opening up to discussion from the floor. I gave a flavour of inspections and what they’re like now, explained the processes in reference to the Common Inspection Framework, and talked about key themes such as:

  • the impact of the culture of schools
  • the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum
  • how safeguarding is the golden thread that runs through inspection.


We still have myths circulating and marking is a persistent one. I know for a fact that marking can be killing in volume. And I will say it again: as far as Ofsted is concerned, marking does not have to be done in any particular way.

Please do not feel under pressure to have a lesson plan. We do not require this, nor do we grade individual lessons. What is important is that lessons are planned. 

I cannot emphasise enough that all teachers at all levels of seniority need to be aware of the myths that have developed. And hands up, yes – some inspectors may have been culpable in the past and we are doing everything we can to make sure that the messages we send out are clear and transparent. Mythbusting is a priority and I would encourage everyone to look at our clarification document and our mythbusting films #OfstedMyths.  

I personally carried out three short inspections in the summer and during each one, made sure I walked around the school with the headteachers for significant amounts of time – seeing it thorough their eyes. As a result, I had very professional debates and dialogue with those headteachers. This is how inspection should be. It is a professional process and not a tick box exercise, just driven by data. We are not inspecting to catch anyone out. The quality of education provided and the progress the pupils are making is the important thing.

At the heart of inspection is the drive to ensure all children and young people get the education they deserve that will set them up for their lives. If you are aware of any other myths we should be addressing, please email us and let us know.