Dear Selwyn

16th June 2006 at 01:00
Selwyn Ward is the TES's inspection 'agony uncle', answering your questions on the new Ofsted process

How will Ofsted decide which teachers to observe, and what happens if you are off sick?

The choice of who to see varies from inspection to inspection. If it is any reassurance, if you are off sick, we don't come to your house. In primary school inspections, it's quite possible that all the teachers and their classes will be seen. In a secondary school, the choice of what lessons to sample will usually depend on the inspection focus. Since the inspectors will want to test the accuracy of the school's own monitoring of teaching and learning, it is not unusual for the lead inspector to ask the head to identify lessons where they might expect to see the strongest teaching, and those where teaching may be weaker.

The lead inspector agrees the pattern of lesson observation and will keep the school informed about the rationale behind it. Inspectors may observe lessons for a variety of purposes: they may track the progress of individual pupils; compare provision for, say, three sets of learners; or look at the impact of specialist status.

What happens if a school with specialist status gets put into special measures?

It does not lose its specialist status automatically, but if it's still in special measures when it is due for redesignation, then it could lose its status at that point. This is not something decided by Ofsted, but by the DfES.

Why does Ofsted insist on us having a "moment of reflection" or holding a daily act of collective worship?

Like it or not, there is a legal requirement. Schools are expected to certify whether or not they comply and this may be something that inspectors want to check up on. The common "justification" offered for non-compliance, particularly by secondary schools, used to be that "we can't hold daily assemblies because we can't fit everyone in the hall".

Fair enough, but the legislation doesn't demand an assembly. "Collective"

doesn't mean the entire school community simultaneously. It has therefore increasingly come to be accepted that the law can be satisfied in registration or tutor time with, as you say, a "moment of reflection".

Purists will argue that this is hardly "worship", but I doubt that you would be criticised for offering this alternative on days when the pupils do not have an assembly, provided that the "moment" is not so brief that you could miss it if you blinked. If you don't offer even this, then the school is probably flouting the law because it disagrees with it; not a good example to be setting the kids. It may encourage them to take a similar view over school uniform or other regulations.

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 www.tes.co.uksectionstaffroom

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