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An inspector writes

Selwyn Ward is the TES's inspection 'agony uncle', answering your questions on the new Ofsted process

If a teaching assistant is delivering a lesson, will they be observed and if so what will inspectors be looking for?

They may well be observed. Inspectors will treat them similarly to teachers and they should offer them feedback in the same way as they'd offer it to teachers. The bottom line is that inspectors will be looking at the progress that the pupils are making. Given that inspection is much more about checking that the school knows how well it is doing, inspectors may be as interested in looking at how the senior management team monitor the effectiveness of teaching assistants delivering lessons.

I'm having a bit of a panic about what may be in store. I've been a head of department in a large 11-18 school for the past year and in that time have got many things organised that weren't, but should have been, in place before. I have worked my socks off for the past 12 months, but I want to be prepared. What do I need to hand when the inspectors call?

As the Hitchhiker's Guide says: "Don't Panic!" Inspectors' starting point will be the SEF (self-evaluation form). Make sure the school's SEF gives an honest and substantiated evaluation of how well you are doing and what you've done to tackle the issues you've identified. The leadership team certainly shouldn't treat the SEF like a PR document, but equally you won't impress with false modesty.

You may find the inspection a bit of an anti-climax when it comes. In a secondary school like yours, the team certainly won't expect to see everything. They won't be inspecting subjects or departments, but it sounds, however, like yours is one where the school will want to demonstrate how far it's come over the past year. That may mean it becomes a focus of the inspection.

We are a primary school and have been told we are getting a PE subject inspection and that the inspector will want to see pupils' work samples.

What could this be, apart from observation?

I can't say that I've frequently been offered them, but I'm told that some schools keep video records of PE achievement. To be honest, this goes beyond what I'd normally have expected to see. Of course, if the school takes part in competitive sports inspectors can see whether they win or not from counting the silverware. I suspect, though, that in many primary schools, if I asked for a PE work sample I'd probably be handed a pair of sweaty plimsolls. Inspectors may expect teachers to be keeping assessment records to enable them to keep track of children's skills development and progress and to ensure that they are setting tasks in PE that help pupils to build on and develop their skills.

Selwyn Ward draws on many years of experience in both primary and secondary schools, but the views expressed here are his own. You can raise any queries or worries that you have about inspection by logging on to the TES website at

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