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Q: As a voluntary-aided church school, we are due a separate inspection of our RE and collective worship. However, when we had our Ofsted inspection we were surprised to find that inspectors looked at RE books and went into RE lessons. Did they break the rules?

A: No. Under the previous system of inspection, subjects were inspected but Ofsted inspectors did not look at RE in a voluntary-aided school. They might have looked at RE books to see pupils' extended writing.

Under the current system, inspectors are not inspecting any individual subjects, and so are sampling what the school is typically like. In a voluntary-aided church school, the teaching week may well include quite a lot of RE, and there may also be cross-curricular work that links together different subjects, including RE.

Avoiding RE lessons in these circumstances might artificially skew inspectors' picture of what the school is typically like. The exception to this might be on the now rare occasion when the RE inspection coincides with the Ofsted inspection.

Q: I've heard colleagues talk about "light touch" inspections. What are they?

A: All inspections are "lighter touch" when compared with previous frameworks, in that inspection teams are smaller and in school for a much shorter time than in the past.

You are probably thinking of Reduced Tariff Inspections (RTI), which last one day only and involve only one or two inspectors. These make up about 30 per cent of all inspections.

Schools selected for RTI are usually those that are thought to be doing relatively well, based, for example, on an analysis of the school's previous inspection findings, performance data, and local intelligence (input from HMI who know the locality). Being selected for an RTI does not mean that the school must automatically be good or better. There are certainly cases of RTI finding schools to be inadequate

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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