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An inspector calls

Inspection seems to involve a lot of bureaucratic box-ticking. Isn't this a pointless paperchase?

It is a myth that inspectors go around with a checklist of things to tick off. In the current inspection framework, the only example of box-ticking that I can think of is the check that inspectors are required to make that the school's formal safeguarding systems meet the latest government expectations.

In practice, that means inspectors confirming that the school has a single central record of its Criminal Records Bureau checks for adults and that this contains the required details. It means a check of the school's racial incident book and a sampling of its risk assessments. The inspectors will probably also want to see the school's child protection policy and some assurance that staff have had recent child protection training. But that's it.

Inspectors make judgments and report on schools against an evaluation schedule that sets out Ofsted's criteria for each of the main inspection grades. This is available and can be downloaded from the Ofsted website. This, updated as it is from time to time, is the guidance that inspectors follow.

The big change in inspection from September 2005 was that each inspection should be tailored to the circumstances of each individual school. Every inspection starts with the lead inspector considering the school's self evaluation form. The inspector will then write a pre-inspection briefing (PIB) that will contain an analysis of the pre-inspection evidence, including recent test scores and the school's previous inspection report.

The headteacher usually sees the PIB the day before the inspection and will have a chance to discuss it with the lead inspector; so if the school thinks that inspectors have misread or misinterpreted the evaluation or other evidence, they can discuss this with them at the start.

Inspection is not a paperchase. It should be a professional dialogue between inspectors and school leaders and teachers.

Selwyn Ward 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, email him at features@tes.co.uk.

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