'An extremely positive experience'

4th May 2007 at 01:00
"We didn't feel the inspection was done to us as it had been in the past, it was far more of a shared experience."

Jean Thomson, head of Ringwood C of E infants, received her first Ofsted visit under the new light touch framework last month, writes William Stewart. With inspectors confirming the Hampshire school's assessment of itself as outstanding in every category, she is, unsurprisingly, happy with the result. But she also praises the process.

Filling in the self-evaluation form initially had meant "hours and hours"

of work. "But keeping it up to date is much easier and it really is worth it," she said. "It means your judgments of the school are being listened to by inspectors who have to take notice because they spend less time in school."

Mrs Thomson, who has inspected for Ofsted herself under the old regime, also welcomed the shorter notice.

"They phoned on Monday and came in on Thursday and that is great," she said. "It means you don't have weeks and weeks of staff worrying about what is to come."

On the grades, she feels there should also be a "very good" category to bridge the big gap between "good" and "outstanding". And she argues "satisfactory" is misleading because under the new Ofsted definition it actually means there are concerns.

As for Ofsted sending letters out to infant pupils about the findings of the inspection, Mrs Thomson believes only a minority will have read them.

Unlike some heads she has no concerns about Ofsted relying on narrow pieces of data, believing her school has done enough analysis to challenge anything misleading.

Overall she said: "It was an extremely positive experience but that might not be the case for somebody who had a different inspector. They are not all the same."

Photograph: Russell Sach

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