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Ask an inspector

Q Do inspectors want to see detailed lesson plans for every subject taught in primary schools? At my school we do detailed plans for numeracy and literacy lessons but not for the other subjects. What are inspectors going to be looking for? And what happens if we don't follow precisely what's on our lesson plan?

A Inspectors may ask to see whatever planning you have prepared and would normally prepare. Many teachers say there is much additional lesson planning and pro formas produced for the inspection. I've seen that myself countless times - but it is not what inspectors should be asking for or expecting. Sometimes extra planning is done for inspectors on orders of the headteacher; sometimes it's done as a crutch for the teachers.

In the days when I used to meet staff in advance of an inspection, I always used to tell them to feel free to depart from formal lesson plans if they judge that is the appropriate thing to do. I've seen lessons that have been completely unsuccessful because pupils have missed a key point but the teacher, though realising the incomprehension, has ploughed on regardless because there's an inspector in the room and the teacher is afraid to depart from the planning.

On the other hand, I've seen very successful lessons where the teacher has metaphorically torn up the lesson plan and refocused the lesson because they can see that pupils haven't grasped a point and need more support with their learning.

Q How seriously are the letters from parents taken? A parent at our school is talking of sending one in. We know that it's not going to be complimentary. Should we brace ourselves or are they taken with a pinch of salt?

A The questionnaires from parents and the letters and comments that some add are certainly read by inspectors.

Ideally, inspectors check through the questionnaires and comments quite early on in the inspection. They may typically look for some common themes.

For example, if several raise concerns about lack of homework, then that may result in inspectors looking particularly to see whether or not this is a significant issue.

Sometimes the questionnaires and comments include a whole bunch of gripes, each of which is quite different and unconnected. This may convey a message to inspectors that relationships between the school and the parents may not be as good as they could be, but inspectors will not give great weight to each individual uncorroborated complaint

Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question contact him at www.askanin spector@tes.co.uk

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