How did you cope?

22nd April 2005, 1:00am
Michael Duffy


How did you cope?
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"I found our Ofsted team pretty good. What I liked best was getting my grade immediately and getting real feedback that I could use. They were positive, overall, with suggestions for improvement - real, useful ones that looked as though they came from successful teachers. But there were definite differences in the way each member approached their observation requirements. The Regi would dot every 'i' and cross every 't' and was very stingy with anything but satisfactory. The inspector in charge of science and RE was quite liberal with his 'good' and 'very good'. We nicknamed the one in charge of English The Terrier as she came in barking and biting. She had a specific agenda and refused to consider innovations that we've put in place to help our kids along." slieber24

"We had a very light touch. The primary focus was indeed on the quality of teaching and learning. Only six departments were fully inspected and these were warned in advance. However, samples of work were collected from across the age and ability range in all subjects. My department wasn't being inspected, so I was only observed for one 20-minute period. I wasn't required to submit any documentation in advance (the head asked for some - handbook, schemes of work -though apparently this was not necessary).

"As a head of department, I was interviewed by an inspector on three of the key questions. I chose to supplement my spoken evidence with documentation.

The inspection team made lots of positive comments during the week and were generally nice.

"But midway through my lesson observation, a mobile phone went off. I blew up, demanded to know which irresponsible little toad owned the phone, and asked the person responsible to leave the classroom. The inspector got up, mumbling apologies, and left the classroom." eurgain

"I'd been head for just over six months when we had our first Ofsted.

During the week of the inspection, I had meetings with all the inspectors virtually every day; one day there were five hours of meetings, on another day, three. It was very intensive. I tried to make sure the staff felt supported, walked round school whenever I was free, peered through classroom windows, made sure there were cakes in the staffroom. And I never left school until after the last inspector went each night - never before 8pm.

"The team were very professional and gave instant feedback to each teacher they observed, which was appreciated. At the end, the Regi told me he had changed his initial opinion that we would fall into a category. We were satisfactory! I couldn't stop grinning." slinky 1

"The worst bit was not knowing when they would come in. Every time the door latch went we'd all look up expectantly. The children in my reception class were fantastic for the three days and were all keen to show our 'special visitors' what we could do. They weren't angels, though, and I think the inspectors got a true reflection of them.

"I had all my usual parent helpers in and I did not find them a hindrance at all. I made sure they had a copy of my plans at the start of the week so they were clear on what I wanted them to do. I think it's a positive thing to have people helping in class. Have confidence in yourself." LKF

"My (secondary) school was inspected a few weeks before Easter. The pupils were well behaved, which the inspector commented on. This is perhaps not surprising, as due to a reciprocal agreement with the heads of a number of other local schools, many of the most challenging pupils were on 'step-out' visits for the duration. A large number of the others ended up on temporary exclusions...

"The school operates a five-level discipline policy, based on progressive warnings. If a pupil gets to level five, senior management are called to remove them. Before the inspection, this took up to 45 minutes. In the weeks between the notice of the inspection and the arrival, senior management roamed between classes without the need for calls, on some occasions extracting pupils who had not even reached the sanction level. I wonder if this will continue?"


"It was awful. I'd only been teaching out of phase for the first time in less than a term and the brown envelope arrived. I was fine initially but fell to pieces the weekend before. As a result I underperformed and was criticised. I was demoralised and felt that the inspector, who was very experienced in my phase, was quite intimidating. Friendlyish feedback, awful write-up." Keighleigh

"I survived on chocolate and red wine. I can recommend the stress for losing weight. But it was a weird experience. Once the first day was over - lesson observation 'very good' and lengthy after-school meeting to discuss departmental issues - it certainly seemed easier. It snowed heavily one night so the following day the school was closed. Fantastic!" cat69 "I started a new teaching assistant's job last week; this week we had our Ofsted visit. So far, I have not seen the school in 'normal' mode. Before the visit, everyone was hyper, lots of things were being organised and sorted out, plans being drawn up, meetings being held, teachers too busy to explain what they actually wanted me to do.

"It started off OK on the Monday. People were stressed, but not overly, and we all felt it was going to be OK. By Tuesday, stress levels had risen as the inspectors appeared more visible and were, as one teacher put it, 'like rats up drainpipes'. By Wednesday, people were highly stressed, and the head was running from class to class passing messages in hushed tones to nervous teachers. The inspectors were being a bit more daring, and interrupting lessons with specific questions. At one point, an inspector 'borrowed' the Year 2 teacher for half an hour, and I was asked to carry on with the lesson... oh, what fun! By Wednesday, some teachers were weeping quietly, and others were talking in groups in hushed tones but with aggressive gestures.

"By Thursday, the inspectors had gone, and the school seemed to give a collective sigh. The teachers were so laid back they were almost horizontal. On the Friday, we were still in recovery mode. Some structure has returned to the lessons, and teachers are looking forward to a well earned rest." jeannie155

"I was helping out in a Year 12 class during an inspection and the teacher was doing an RE lesson on 'special places'. The kids had been to visit a church and before the inspection had discussed how they felt: 'peaceful', 'calm', 'quiet' and (Molly's key contribution) 'respectful'. The lesson came round and the inspector was in. Photos were shown of the church and then there was a brief discussion. 'How did some of you feel when you were inside the church?' the teacher asked, making eyes at Molly. No hands up.

Question repeated. No hands up. Eventually one boy put up his hand. 'Really bored'." Phoebe Beeberbe

"My last experience of Ofsted was a year ago in a school where I was on supply for two weeks. They were generally civilised, greeting and saying thank you, etc, which believe me does make a difference. Several of my lessons were observed and the only problem was in science.

"I had planned a three-stage lesson on photosynthesis for Year 45, and the first two parts went fine. But I'm no scientist and half way through the third part it occurred to me that I didn't really know what I was talking about. The children were getting confused, and I could hear the inspector asking them if they understood, and lots of 'no's' coming back.

"So, I changed what I had planned for the last part of the lesson, and made it more didactic, stressing that the children would be going over it again in their next lesson. I've no idea if this was the right thing to do, but it's what I would have done had the inspector not been there, and seemed the only way of preventing the lesson degenerating in chaos.

"I got no feedback, though; it seems supply teachers don't qualify for that part of the inspection process." wolfian

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