Clues to crack the inspectors' code

10th November 2000 at 00:00
OFSTED advice suggests how primary teachers should

prepare for the next inspection, reports Robert Boyland

TEACHERS who have ever wanted to know the types of

questions school inspectors are likely to ask pupils, or what they will look for in lessons, should take a glance at Inspecting Subjects 3-11, particularly if they are working in primary or nursery schools.

The Office for Standards in Education book gives practical advice to its staff on judging

quality in all subjects for pupils from nursery to age 11, including standards, achievement, teaching and learning. It is also intended to assist schools with their self-evaluation and monitoring.

It contains evidence of what inspectors write about schools when preparing and conducting inspections, with examples of what constitutes good and unsatisfactory lessons, highlighting

features that exemplify high and low standards of achievement.

The report says poor planning, inefficient assessment, unchallenging material and a failure to provide tasks which are suitable for mixed-ability groups with high-achievers as the main reasons why OFSTED inspectors grade teaching quality as "poor".

The revised national curriculum and guidance on a new foundation curriculum for nursery and primary schools means that inspectors will be placing greater emphasis on educational inclusion, including race equality.

The guidance advises inspectors to look for ways in which the principles of inclusion relate to how teachers plan and teach the curriculum. This is through: "setting suitable learning challenges, responding to pupils' diverse learning needs and overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils."

Inspectors will be looking for provision to meet all pupils' learning needs, reflected, perhaps, in detailed action plans for children with special needs.

In the classroom, teachers should set tasks according to the different abilities of pupils and not rely too much on standardised worksheets that may be too easy for higher-ability pupils.

In a maths lesson in which a teacher asks pupils to find square roots of numbers is praised by an inspector for the way questions are targeted, with higher achievers asked to find square roots ofhigher numbers. They are also shown how to use functions on scientific calculators during part of the lesson on calculating the area of shapes.

In a "very good" science lesson, a lower-attaining group with special needs children is able to take part in a scientific experiment by recording observations on a tape recorder. The inspector notes: "The higher-attaining group has to record their data directly onto computer, and then produce a chart of their results. All groups are suitably challenged and extended."

Teachers should ask probing questions of a range of pupils during lessons to assess what they know and to see if the material is pitched at the right level. This may involve dropping the level of difficulty for pupils

mid-lesson if appropriate.

Efficient use of resources, or the lack of it, is a constant source of praise or criticism in the reports of inspectors. For instance, a geography teacher is criticised for not using a wall map, atlas or globe which are freely available in the room in which he is teaching a lesson on distance, places and locality.

Where possible, links to knowledge gained by pupils in other subject areas should be referred to by teachers during lessons.

'Inspecting Subjects 3-11' is posted at and being distributed free to all maintained primary, nursery and special schools, inspectors and education authorities.

Inspectors should consider the extent

to which teachers:

* show good subject knowledge and understanding

in the way they present and discuss their subject

* are technically competent in teaching phonics

and other basic skills

* plan effectively, setting clear objectives

that pupils understand

* challenge and inspire pupils, expecting the

most of them

* use methods which enable all pupils to

learn effectively

* manage pupils well and insist on high

standards of behaviour

* use time, support staff and other resources,

especially information and communication

technology, effectively

* assess pupils' work thoroughly and use

assessments to help and encourage pupils

to overcome difficulties

* use homework effectively to reinforce and

or extend what is learned in school

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