Ask an inspector - QA

Q: Like many other schools, our Sats marking was a mess. We've put in appeals for a lot of scripts, especially in English. My worry is that inspectors will come in this term, look at the published results and say we are underachieving. What can we do?

A: Although the problems with Sats marking have been more widely reported this year, it is not unusual for schools to want to appeal some of the results. Inspectors will be aware that the 2008 results they see early on in the autumn term will be "unvalidated" and may be subject to amendment.

If your school believes that the initial results give an inaccurate skew to the picture on standards and achievement, then it's a good idea to argue this clearly in the school's self evaluation form (SEF), so that inspectors are aware of the argument before they get to the school.

You will then want to make available to inspectors the evidence on which your argument is based. They can then view and weigh that in reaching their judgments about standards and achievement. When validated results are published, inspectors will expect to rely on them, but as the school year progresses, they will increasingly want to give emphasis to evidence of current standards rather than past years' results.

Q: In our recent inspection, the inspector said that he had been instructed to give only a good grade for achievement, teaching and learning and leadership and management if the contextual value added (CVA) was not above a certain level. He had made his mind up about the school before he came in. We have worked on improving our key stage 1 results over the years and appear to have been penalised for doing so.

A: I am sorry that you felt your inspector was on auto-pilot. As I've stressed in the past, CVA is just one indicator of achievement. Ofsted expects its inspectors to apply professional judgment when weighing this data against the school's other evidence of the effectiveness of its provision.

Although there is an expectation of general congruence between inspection grades, that does not mean that all grades must necessarily be the same.

One might normally expect that good leadership and management would lead to good teaching and learning and result in pupils making good progress and achieving well. That does not, however, mean that that must always be the case.

The crucial thing for inspectors (and for schools in arriving at their SEF grades) is that where there is a departure from the expected congruence, this is clearly explained. Remember as well that CVA only tells you about the past.

Selwyn has been an inspector for 15 years, working in primary and secondary schools. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, contact him at

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