Ask an inspector - QA

17th October 2008 at 01:00

Q: Inspectors came and went in our school and we hardly noticed. There were loads of things that they never looked at, so important things that our school does aren't mentioned in the report. I know inspections are supposed to be light touch, but this seems ridiculous. Am I right to be upset?

A: I am sorry that your inspection was a disappointment. Most schools have welcomed the lighter touch inspections.

Inspections are shorter and more focused than in the past, and inspectors will not look at everything. In reduced tariff inspections - which are the lightest touch of all - the report will make clear that the inspector only looked at specific issues. They accept the school's self evaluation for other aspects that are not looked at in detail. Reports should still accurately reflect the school.

If there are things you particularly want inspectors to see, it's worth drawing them to their attention in the self evaluation form so that they have an idea in advance of what they should be looking out for, and in evidence you make available to them during their time in the school.

Q: Who decides which member of staff should be observed during a paired observation with an Ofsted inspector? Is it the inspector, the management or the teacherlecturer? During a recent inspection, I was observed by a member of our college team and an inspector. They stayed in my session for almost an hour and I was invited to meet them immediately after my session was complete. At the end of the feedback, the inspector thanked me for volunteering. I was completely taken back as I hadn't volunteered.

A: It isn't usual for staff to volunteer themselves for observations, and for most purposes it is the inspectors who choose who to observe and when, and this is not subject to negotiation. The exception is over joint observations where the inspector observes a lesson in tandem with the head or another member of the senior management team.

Inspectors will often agree in advance with school leaders the type of lesson that should be picked for a joint observation rather than electing to go to a lesson chosen at random, but the school should ensure this is acceptable to the teacher. There are situations where a joint observation may not be appropriate. It would not be appropriate for inspectors to carry out a joint observation with school leaders of a teacher under threat of competency proceedings.

Observations are more likely to be for only part of a lesson, and usually for no more than half an hour, but I can imagine there might be circumstances where a longer observation might be helpful.

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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