Dear Selwyn

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
Selwyn Ward is the TES's inspection 'agony uncle', answering your questions on the new Ofsted process

We had our inspection, but nobody came to see me teach. In some ways I'm gutted. Call me a show-off, but I love letting other people see what I can do.

I suspect your experience is not unusual. After the initial sigh of relief at the "light touch" of the new-style inspections, a lot of teachers will have just a small pang of disappointment that they haven't been seen. This may be particularly the case when the inspection results in a positive report and all want recognition for being part of the success. Inclusion isn't just about the pupils.

You've said before that inspectors judge teaching not teachers. I'm sorry to sound naive, but how can they possibly not be judgments on the teacher?

It is a subtle distinction, I know, but it's a real one. Inspectors are usually looking at and judging particular aspects of teaching, not ranking the teachers. Contrary to what a previous chief inspector famously mis-stated, just because someone delivers an inadequate lesson, it does not mean that they are an inadequate teacher. It's not rare for me to see lessons that are, for one reason or another, ineffective, but it's much rarer for me to come away from the lesson thinking, "that person is obviously in the wrong job". When I do, it's usually because it is a teacher who obviously doesn't like children. And even then, unless the teacher was unsafe I would expect to keep such views to myself.

I am a Year 2 teacher and have been hearing a lot lately about how the level 3 at key stage 1 does not hold the same status as a level 3 at key stage 2. We infant teachers have been put under DfES and Ofsted pressure to produce more level 3s, and then the junior school gets upset at us when the children aren't at a level 3 by their standards.

The perceived difference between KS1 level 3 and KS2 level 3 is commonly alluded to in junior schools, though usually less so in all-through primaries. My advice to you as a Year 2 teacher is not to worry about it, but to do your best to help as many of your pupils as possible to do as well as they can. Sometimes differences are made more evident by junior schools seeking to reset the baseline for entry (because that's how progress will be measured) by setting extra tests at the start of Year 3.

Often these will yield lower results, not because of any inaccuracy in the infant school, but because inevitably children get a bit rusty and forget things over the long summer break.

Where there are disagreements over levels between neighbouring infant and junior schools, it would be good to see schools using it as a cue to work more closely together rather than to have a go at each other. Why not get some of the junior school teachers involved in moderating your key stage 1 assessments, and vice versa?

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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