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Ask an inspector

Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question contact him at Selwyn regularly answers your Ofsted questions on our forums at

Q Like many other schools, we have a team of cover supervisors. These are non-teaching staff who cover absent lessons. They do not teach as such, but set the work and manage the children, keeping them on task.

Presumably they could be observed during an inspection. If so, how would they be judged? My initial thought was that it would be pupils' learning where the judgment would be made and not the teaching - as they are not teaching.

A Assuming that it is made clear to the inspectors which lessons are being "covered", then I think it unlikely in most inspections that these will be observed. The exception might be if concerns had been raised that there was a high proportion of teaching time being missed and pupils' progress was suffering as a result.

If inspectors were to visit a cover lesson then, yes, it is the learning that they would be looking at. This is similarly the case where, for example, lessons are observed when the pupils are doing independent work where there may be little "active" teaching at the time the inspector is in the room.

Q I work in health promotion and went into a secondary school to lead some sessions; an inspector came into the room where I was working. He stayed about 20 minutes and then left.

He made loads of notes but we didn't really hold a conversation. Will I find out what he thought and wrote?

When teachers have been observed do you get a report or to see the report specifically from your session?

A Inspectors are expected to offer feedback on any lessons formally observed (as opposed to when they might, perhaps, be in a classroom looking at books while a lesson is on).

This applies not just for teachers but other staff, particularly teaching assistants who may be leading a lesson. There can be practical difficulties in arranging feedbacks, particularly where inspectors are making a series of quite short observations.

This means that it is usual for the lead inspector to agree these arrangements with the headteacher in advance of the inspection. For example, nowadays I usually suggest that if a member of staff is observed, they should come to the inspectors' base at the end of the morning or afternoon session for a conversation about the lesson.

The usual format of feedback is a brief dialogue on the lesson. Unless a lesson is judged outstanding, there should always be an indication of what could have been better. What you don't get is a copy of your inspector's notes and there are no written reports produced on individual lessons

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