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An inspection should not lead to panic

Advice for teachers in their early career

Being inspected is something that all teachers dread, but there really is no need. You're a good teacher, aren't you? Well it's nice to be told - something that doesn't happen too much in schools. As teachers, we're not good at using praise to reinforce behaviour we'd like to see in colleagues.

Many people, though they dread the run-up, enjoy being inspected because they get objective feedback and recognition that they're doing a good job.

Knowing more about the inspection process will help allay fears. There's a lot of talk about inspectors rooting through cupboards and so on, but that is untrue and such talk only serves to upset people.

There are two layers of inspection: the Ofsted one from which reports are published and given to parents and are publicly available; and the LEA ones, which are not so serious. Both are based on the inspection handbook (see http:www.ofsted.gov.ukpublications docs3266.pdf). This is a public document and it contains all that you need to know.

Ofsted inspects each school in England at least every six years. If a school's last inspection report was positive and it maintains good test results, it will probably be left alone for six years. If a school's test results go down, or the previous inspection found weaknesses, it would be inspected more frequently. LEAs also inspect schools according to their level of success. Generally they have a lighter touch, but happen more often.

Ofsted gives between six and 10 weeks' notice. Inspectors grade everything on a seven-point scale where one means excellent, four is satisfactory and seven is very poor. Once you understand the lingo you can read reports and translate what the inspectors are saying.

In each lesson observed, there will be grades for four things: standards of pupils' attainment; pupils' attitudes, behaviour, and so on; progress in the lesson; and quality of teaching. If the pupils make good progress, behave well and work hard it will be as a result of your teaching, so all those grades should match - all threes. Pupil standards are not affected by one lesson so they may be different.

It seems logical to think that less experienced teachers get the lowest grades, but they usually do well in inspections. Almost half of all lessons taught by new teachers during inspections are graded between "excellent" and "good", because they plan, teach and assess using the latest methods - and don't get thrown by having someone watching them teach.

Sara Bubb's 'The Insider's Guide for New Teachers' is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99)

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