Dear Selwyn

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
Selwyn Ward is the TES's inspection 'agony uncle', answering your questions on the new Ofsted process

I am a Senco in a secondary school. What exactly will inspectors will be looking at and will they, as I do, consider inclusion as part of the Senco role? Will they also think that the Senco should be on the leadership team and an assistant head?

Special educational needs (or learning difficulties and disabilities, the current preferred formulation) will almost certainly be looked at in every inspection under the new regime. But the extent to which inspectors focus on SENLDD will vary from school to school. Inclusion will be looked at particularly in the context of the Ofsted focus on Every Child Matters. But the best schools will be those where inclusion permeates the school rather than being pigeonholed as an SEN function. Inspectors should focus on effectiveness so will not have a fixed view about the status of a Senco.

I am the foundation stage co-ordinator in a school that has no outdoor play area for under-fives. This was flagged up in the last inspection report five years ago but has still not materialised. Our nursery is run by nursery nurses to allow the original nursery teacher to be used for PPA time across the school - something I have been against from the start. What do I say to inspectors if they ask me about this? How confidential are any meetings with them? The bottom line is that our head was adamant that the nursery could manage without a teacher. I wish I could be honest and tell the inspectors this but I feel as though I need to protect the headschool.

What can I do?

It's always difficult when you have responsibility for an area but reservations about the school's approach. On the one hand, you want to be honest and say how you think things ought to be organised; on the other, you want to be loyal to the school and the rest of the team. It is your call as to which of these takes priority. You can be sure, however, that inspectors will notice there's no outdoor play area and they will know that this was flagged in the last inspection. Their bottom line will be: how does the school ensure that the children are not losing out as a result? If you think they are, because, say, physical development is markedly lower than other early learning goals, then it may be sensible to share this concern. If you think that's not an issue, then you can talk proudly about how effective the school's alternative measures have been.

Inspectors will also notice that the nursery class has no teacher. A key question here may be about how you andor the head are monitoring this to ensure that the alternative arrangements are effective in terms of pupils'

welfare and progress. An honest and not disloyal response might be to share your reservations but to say that it's early days, it's being assessed (if it is) and that you'll be pressing for a change if it doesn't deliver the goods.

Selwyn Ward draws on many years of experience in both primary and secondary schools, but the views expressed here are his own. You can raise any queries or worries that you have about inspection by logging on to the TES website at

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