Q: Who decides how many inspectors come in to your school? We were inspected in the same term as another primary school in our town. We have the same number of classes and cover the same key stages and year groups, yet they had two inspectors in for the first day of the inspection and we had three.
A: The number of inspectors is affected by the number of pupils on roll. There are set cut-off points so that, for example, a school with 250 pupils would qualify for four inspector days (two inspectors in for two days) whereas a school with 251-400 pupils would qualify for five inspector days (usually three in for the first day and two for the second). Obviously this can give rise to schools with the same number of classes getting different numbers of inspectors. There are also some circumstances where, for quality assurance purposes, an extra inspector attends for all or a part of the inspection.
Most readers will be aware that some inspections are also carried out as Reduced Tariff Inspections (RTI). These are usually carried out over a single inspection day and, for all but the largest primary schools, they will involve just one inspector.
Q: The pupils who join our school in Year 7 come in with supposed key stage 2 Sats results that bear no resemblance to their abilities. We get a high proportion of pupils who are said to be level 5, but who we think are nothing like it. Presumably they have been drilled in Year 6 so that they perform well in the tests, but they really don't have the knowledge and understanding to justify such high scores. It reflects badly on us when they come to take their KS3 Sats in Year 9, because they end up with depressed value added scores.
A: It won't surprise you to learn that your feeder junior schools probably voice similar moans about KS1. Schools always want their pupils to score as well as they can in these tests and preparation is a fact of life in most schools. I would be concerned if you were sending your Year 9 pupils into their tests unprepared.
Test preparation becomes a problem only when it becomes so all-pervasive that it narrows the curriculum and pupils' enjoyment. Inspectors can be expected to look out for this when they make their curriculum judgment.
You can't expect inspectors to ignore national test results. But they will judge the progress pupils make during the key stage at your school, so make sure the tracking evidence is available. It would not be unusual for schools' testing to show a summer dip between scores in May and results of any testing carried out in the autumn term - particularly where there has been a change of school.
Selwyn 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, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.