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Q Our neighbouring school was inspected last month and criticised for not making better use of teaching assistants during whole-class teaching. What do inspectors expect?

A It is not for inspectors to lay down the law about precisely what teaching assistants (TAs) should be doing during whole-class teaching. I can see, however, that they might voice concerns if TAs were routinely sitting as passive listeners during half-hour teacher expositions. Assistants are a valuable resource and it is a waste if they spend significant portions of the day being largely decorative. They will often be working with an individual or a particular group of pupils during whole-class teaching. They may be sitting with them and making sure they understand. Sometimes they may contribute to team teaching, with banter between the teacher and TA adding to the dynamic of the lesson. If the TA's main role is in helping particular children when they are working individually, they can still be productively deployed during periods of whole-class teaching by, for example, recording for the teacher which children are contributing to discussion - and which are not.

Q We've been told we are going to have a one-day inspection. How does this differ from the usual inspection?A The amount of time allocated for an inspection varies between schools because it is based on the number of pupils. Small primary schools have had one-day inspections from the start of the current inspection framework. Because these one-day inspections are determined by pupil numbers, the amount of time is not in any way related to what the school's performance data may be indicating. Now Ofsted has introduced reduced tariff inspections, when larger schools also qualify for a one-day inspection where the pre-inspection indicators are strongly favourable. At present, around 30 per cent of inspections are reduced tariff so this is not being reserved just for the schools that look as if they may be outstanding. It is likely the proportion of these one-day inspections will increase. In addition, schools with a notice to improve (since summer 2006) and a 5 per cent sample of those graded as satisfactory but where there have been several inadequacies identified, will get monitoring inspections that will also be for just one day. Further details can be found in Inspection Matters 11 on the Ofsted website:

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

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