25 ways to survive your inspection

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
No need to be afraid of the clipboard brigade.Carol Atherton advises on all you need to know

1 Use your novice's know-how

New teachers often cope very well with inspections. Unlike more seasoned staff, you are used to being observed, and you are likely to be using the latest methods of teaching and assessment. So make the most of your advantage.

2 No kid gloves for NQTs

New teachers will be assessed by the same criteria as more seasoned staff, although inspectors will know that you are newly qualified. They might ask you about your induction and targets. Keep these in mind and show how you are working towards them.

3 Take it all in your stride

Before your inspection, there will be a visit from the "registered inspector" (the leader of the team), who will probably spend the day talking to the headteacher and other managers, so keep a low profile. The head might give feedback to staff at the end of the day, perhaps including observation criteria and an overall impression of the inspection team.

4 Anticipate what's coming

Your school will get between six and 10 weeks' notice. Use this time carefully. Think about where you want your pupils to be in terms of academic progress, and what you need to do to get them there.

5 It's not the London Palladium

Avoid the temptation to put on "showcase" lessons. Aim to interest and engage pupils, but don't try to make every lesson an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza. These people have seen it all before, and a big show can fall flat on its face. Focus on your pupils'

learning - that's what inspectors are interested in.

6 Get to grips with gadgets

Do all the photocopying you'll need in good time. Also make sure you book any special equipment well in advance - and, most important, make sure you know how to use resources such as PowerPoint, interactive whiteboards and audio-visual teaching aids.

7 Steer clear of tricks

Don't use flashy resources in a bid to impress the inspectors. A lesson can be too "tricksy", and more gizmos mean more potential disasters. Make sure you can justify the strategies you use.

8 Put pupils in the picture

If the week of inspection is going to involve any special activities, make sure you introduce routines to pupils in advance so that they know precisely what to expect. Lay down your ground rules and establish procedures as clearly as possible. If you're planning to change your classroom seating plan, do this the week before to avoid chaos.

9 The readiness is all

Expect to be seen three or four times during a week-long inspection, although there is no set pattern. You may be told which of your lessons will be observed, but that is unlikely. In primary schools, inspectors will focus on core subjects. In secondary schools, they will observe you with pupils from a range of key stages.

10 What will the inspectors do?

They will focus on the quality of teaching and learning in your lessons. Some will sit at the back of the class and take notes. Others may talk to students and look at their work.

11 Aim high and be clear

Make sure your lessons are well planned, with clear learning objectives. Show that you have high expectations and can get pupils engaged. Aim to have a focused plenary session that shows how pupils have progressed.

12 Stay flexible throughout

If a lesson doesn't go to plan, don't worry - just try to adapt the rest of the lesson as effectively as you can. Be prepared to deal with any unexpected questions and problems, rather than ploughing on regardless. Inspectors will give you a lot of credit for thinking on your feet.

13 Get wise to assessment

Make sure marking is up to date - inspectors will look at samples of marked work. Give feedback during your lessons and encourage pupils to set targets and reflect on their achievements. Expect questions from inspectors about the most and least able, how you support them, and about predicted grades.

14 Stick to the school rules

Know and apply your school's code of conduct. Use the established procedures such as writing names on the board or making notes in planners. The final inspection report will comment on pupils'

behaviour, which will be seen as a reflection of the school's overall ethos.

15 Expect the best from pupils

Pupils are unlikely to play up just because it's inspection week - they are more likely to be subdued if they know they are being watched. Be firm but calm. Redirect difficult pupils to their work and try to steer clear of confrontation.

16 Open the door and let 'em in

If you are teaching a particular lesson that you would like the inspectors to see, don't be afraid to make a point of inviting them to observe it. Or, if you think they have missed something important, tell them. They are there for a very short time and often appreciate it when teachers are pro-active. It also helps to put you in control.

17 Remember to stay human

Don't be so nervous that you forget how to respond to your pupils. Your relationship with them is crucial, and will be noted.

Always give praise where it's appropriate.

18 Keep on top of special needs

Inspectors will know which pupils are on the SEN register and what is on their individual education plans. Be prepared to talk about how you support these pupils and how you use teaching assistants and special resources.

19 Expect some feedback

The inspectors must give you some verbal feedback soon after an observation. You will be assessed on a scale from "excellent" to "very poor" and you should be told about the inspectors' judgement. They should explain the reasons for their judgements on your lessons and offer constructive advice.

20 Be confident, not defensive

Welcome feedback and talk about what worked well for you and how you would like to improve. Inspectors are experienced teachers, and a good one will be delighted to talk to you about your practice.

21 Keep abreast of paperwork

Inspectors will not ask to see detailed plans - they are not allowed to do that. But your school might want you to provide some form of lesson plan. Don't bust a gut, though. Summarise what your pupils have already covered, the ability range in the class, and where a lesson fits into medium- and long-term planning.

22 Know your rights

Inspectors have to be fair, honest and impartial. If you feel that you've been treated unfairly, keep a note of what has happened and talk to your induction tutor or a member of your senior management team.

23 Armageddon it ain't

Inspectors are judging the way you teach in a very small number of lessons - not the whole of your teaching career. If you feel you've underperformed, try to keep things in perspective - it really isn't the end of the world.

24 Take the time to relax

Everyone will be tense in the week of an inspection.

Make the most of your time out of school with your non-teaching friends and don't become obsessed. On the other hand, make sure you get enough sleep and save that much-needed tipple until it's all over.

25 Keep a steady pace

You will probably run on adrenalin during the first few days of the inspection, but by the middle of the week you and your pupils might well be feeling the strain. If possible, try to keep the following week as free as you can so that you have an opportunity to unwind.

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