Q: I have recently become a School Improvement Partner (SIP). Will I be involved when any of my schools are inspected?
A: Not in any formal sense: you won't be invited to join the inspection team in making their judgments. Inspectors are likely to look at any external monitoring that has taken place since the school was last inspected, and commonly that involves records of SIP visits.
There may be particular but rare circumstances where inspectors might ask for a conversation with the SIP as part of the inspection process. This may be where the headteacher has left or where there are records that show the local authority has been giving the school lots of advice or extra support. In these circumstances, the inspectors might want to ask how the school has responded. They may want to ascertain the extent to which school leaders are dependent on external support, as opposed to drawing on it as a resource.
More often than not, inspectors will not ask to meet you. If you ask to meet them, however, I doubt that the offer would be rebuffed. However, if you are too keen to contact the team you might be giving the impression that the headteacher cannot be relied on. On those occasions, when I consider that I do need to ask the SIP a question, I often do this with a quick telephone call rather than setting up a meeting.
Practice varies enormously over whether or not SIPs attend the feedback that follows the inspection.
In some areas, local authorities routinely expect the SIP (or another local authority representative) to attend as an observer. In others, this is the exception rather than the rule, with the SIP only expected to attend in schools viewed by the authority as causing concern. In any event, it is the school's meeting not the inspectors', so it is up to the head who they choose to invite.
Q: Who decides which schools get a Reduced Tariff Inspection (RTI)? Our school has consistently good results, but we had an ordinary inspection. Yet another school in our cluster with a history of poor results and negative value added had an RTI. How can this happen?
A: About 30 per cent of inspections are arranged as RTI. These are generally schools with a better than average track record. More often than not, they will have above average test results andor positive contextualised value added scores. That doesn't mean, however, that all good or better schools get RTI, nor that all schools chosen for RTI will be good or better.
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.