Dear Selwyn

9th June 2006 at 01:00
Selwyn Ward is the TES's inspection 'agony uncle', answering your questions on the new Ofsted process

My school is expecting the phone call any day now, but as an NQT in a receptionYear 1 class, I feel I'm only just finding my feet. The thought of Ofsted makes me feel ill. How much time will they spend with an NQT and will they take into account that I am new? Sometimes the children have problems coming into school (separating from parents, etc) so it'll be just my luck for the inspectors to arrive at that moment.

A lot of NQTs are worried about inspection, but there is no cause for them to be. I doubt that being observed teaching is a rarity for you, as it may be for some longer-serving teachers. Yours is obviously quite a small school, so, yes, it is likely that you will be observed, but the thrust of inspection now is much more on checking out the school self-evaluation.

As others have commented, the spotlight has shifted somewhat from the teachers to the headteacher and senior management team. If an inspector is in a school and there are weaknesses in the teaching of an NQT, he or she is likely to focus on finding out what the head and other managers have done to monitor teaching and learning and to provide guidance and support for their new and inexperienced staff. And if it's any reassurance, the likelihood is that yours will not be the first time inspectors have seen clingy children.

We are due to be inspected soon and are being told to use an approved lesson structure of introduction, objectives on board, main part, activity and plenary. The problem is that we have 45-minute lessons and a very large building. Kids often cannot get to lessons on time, depending on where their last lesson was held. Plus, the approved pattern is designed for 60 minutes. With sometimes less than 40 minutes' teaching time, the approved pattern makes for a bitty lesson. I plan sequences of lessons and share objectives with students, who consistently achieve above the expected grades and who, they tell me, enjoy my lessons. I am loath to put on a show, as we have been told to do, and believe the approved pattern is not necessarily the best. Am I being foolish if I refuse to conform, and teach my students what is relevant for them on that day, using whichever technique is most appropriate to their needs?

You make valid points which you should raise with managers in your school.

What I can say is that inspectors should be looking for effective teaching and learning; they should not be demanding any particular lesson format or structure.

I might have some concerns about the loss of teaching time. From what you describe, circulation time is eating away more than 10 per cent of the school's notional teaching time. If that's not reflected in the school's planning, inspectors might well voice concerns that over a week, loss of curriculum time could account for more than is being allocated to some subjects!

* See feature, page 8. 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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