Ask an inspector - QA

3rd October 2008 at 01:00

Q: I firmly believe that if inspectors had to demonstrate good practice, they would be far less likely to damn someone. There are ways and means to offer improvement.

You don't fatten a pig by weighing it constantly, and you don't improve a teacher by constantly observing and then classifying them as unsatisfactory. What do you think?

A: We've all heard the amusing but spurious "weigh a pig" argument about annual testing in schools, but I have never yet heard it applied to Ofsted's lesson observations.

Under the inspection framework, when inspectors observe lessons they are looking at the quality of the learning that is taking place rather than making a judgment about the teacher.

This amounts to a 20 or 30-minute lesson observation every three years, which is the current average. Moreover, even when lessons are judged to be unsuccessful, that does not mean that inspectors are declaring a teacher to be unsatisfactory.

Of course, in the majority of schools, teachers will be observed much more regularly than this by their peers, or by middle and senior managers, as part of their continuous professional development or for performance management reasons.

Q: Help - our Ofsted inspection is overdue, so the inspectors will almost certainly be coming this term. One of my pupils has broken his arm and cannot write. What provision can I make for him? We cannot guarantee a laptop for every lesson. He is a Year 3 pupil in a mixed Year 23 class. The teaching assistant needs to work with Year 2 pupils rather than with this boy. I have tried paired work with the partner writing, but everyone gets frustrated as this boy got off-task enough when he could write. Any advice? What would Ofsted expect?

A: Ofsted inspectors will have no set expectations, in the sense that there is no prescribed code for how schools cater for pupils with broken arms.

Many schools would cope with a combination of laptop availability and paired working. The boy may be in plaster for some weeks, so you ought to be looking for a solution that meets his learning needs, not worrying unduly about what inspectors may think.


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


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