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Q What qualitative evidence do you look for when you consider how well a school is meeting the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda?

A In all the soul-searching debates over Contextualised Value Added data, schools sometimes forget just how central the ECM agenda is to the present incarnation of inspection. As you rightly indicate, what inspectors will be looking for are the ECM outcomes, not just what the school provides. The distinction is one that is missed, by the way, in quite a lot of school self evaluation forms (SEFs) which, despite Ofsted's prompts, often mostly describe what the school provides.

In looking at enjoyment, inspectors will look at the extent to which pupils are interested and engaged in lessons and in other school activities. Attendance rates may be a quantifiable indicator particularly for older pupils who might otherwise be prone to vote with their feet by truanting but inspectors will mostly look at how enthusiastic the children are.

Almost all schools proclaim that they promote healthy lifestyles. The amount of PE and sports may affect inspectors' judgments on the curriculum, and the school's active promotion of fruit rather than crisps may contribute to the grade given to care, guidance and support. In judging the ECM outcomes, however, inspectors will need to judge the extent to which pupils are taking the healthy message to heart. Are they practising what the school preaches?

Inspectors will often ask pupils about bullying to find out if they feel safe in school. It's a rare school where no bullying exists at all, but inspectors want to know whether they feel confident that, where incidents arise, they will be dealt with effectively by staff. Inspectors will also want to learn how much pupils know about how to keep safe.

As with all ECM outcomes, inspectors' expectations will relate to what is age appropriate. The way in which youngsters take on responsibility within school and, particularly for older students, their interest and involvement in things that happen outside school, will be factors that are weighed in judging their contribution to the community. Similarly, inspectors' expectations of pupils' economic preparation will vary according to ages.

In secondary schools, inspectors will be interested in the benefits students gain from work experience and work-related learning. They will be interested in what they have learnt from careers education especially in developing key skills.

With younger pupils, greater emphasis is usually given to the latter: key literacy, numeracy and ICT skills, together with the extent of their study skills and team working, will be what inspectors look at in gauging how prepared pupils feel for the next stage of educatio *

Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, contact him at regularly answers your Ofsted questions on our forums at

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