Chief's Hogwarts and all report

20th June 2003 at 01:00
As the fifth Harry Potter book goes on sale at midnight we publish David Bell's verdict on the famous school of wizardry.

Dear Ministry of Magic

I am relieved to have completed my Ofsted inspection on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as a number of inspectors appear to have disappeared into thin air during previous inspections.

Hogwarts is an interesting and improving school with a highly distinctive ethos. The head provides magical leadership although his vision for the school is not shared by all his senior staff. I was particularly struck by the negative views expressed by the potions master Severus Snape.

The quality of teaching was variable as it ranged from the outstanding to the utterly bizarre. The lessons inspected had a strong practical bias although I did have some concerns about the health and safety of pupils particularly in relation to the dangerous animals - flobberworms and skrewts to name but a few of the more exotic species - exhibited by Hagrid, the groundskeeper. Indeed an unfortunate recent incident involving a hippogriff and a pupil prompted an official investigation into practices at the school, although the inquiry consequently found the groundskeeper was not at fault.

There was a strong vocational bias in lessons and pupils should be well prepared for life in witchcraft and wizardry. Pupils were generally polite and well-behaved although the school has some unresolved discipline issues in Slytherin House where pupils show a high degree of insubordination.

Sport is a strength of Hogwarts, although, at times, the competitive nature of quidditch matches between houses is alarming in the extreme.

The school places a premium on pastoral care, with a well-developed and longstanding house system. Procedures for selection are somewhat idiosyncratic.

Non-teaching staff, including those from the spirit world, make an excellent contribution although house elves are not yet fully integrated or reimbursed. Some spirits (mentioning no names, Mr Peeves) are rather disruptive and their contribution to the smooth running of the school is not yet developed.

Some questions are raised of the effectiveness of the caretaker Mr Filch who has been unable to limit pupil access to the most haunted parts of the school, including the restricted books section of the library.

The board of governors provide excellent support and backing to the headteacher and school. However, on some occasions the governors have unfortunately been unduly influenced by one particular parent, a former Slytherin student with anti-Muggle attitudes. My major concern remains the safety and security of pupils. On too many occasions, outside forces have been allowed to enter the school to the detriment of pupils and staff alike. This remains an issue of concern.

Hogwarts is a charming school that casts a spell over visitors and is regarded with fondness by parents and pupils. But while I enjoyed my visit, it was rather disconcerting to find some members of staff referring to Ofsted as the organisation that "must-not-be-named" and some pupils confusing me with Lord Voldemort.

David Bell

HM chief inspector of schools

TES Teacher, 27



* An improving school with a highly distinctive ethos

* The head provides magical leadership

* Good preparation for life inwitchcraft and wizardry Bad

* Health and safety concerns arising from the presence of numerous dangerous animals such as flobberworms

* Danger to pupils and staff from outside forces entering the school

* Staff referred to Ofsted as theorganisation 'that must not be named'


* The quality of the teaching was variable, ranging from outstanding to the utterly bizarre

* Question mark over the effectiveness of caretaker who has not been able to bar access to most haunted parts of school

* House elves not fully integrated

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