How did you prepare?

15th April 2005 at 01:00
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"Once the scrabble of paperwork is done, it's important to relax. The weekend before our last Ofsted was Bonfire Night, so I had friends round for fireworks and a barbecue. We forgot all about inspections for one evening, slept well and were refreshed and ready." juliafb "I've been through three Ofsteds now, in three schools. The first as a class teacher, the second as deputy head and the third as headteacher. By far the most stressful was the last one, a year ago this week.

"I had been head for a little over six months when we were notified of the inspection and, although I'd been expecting the brown envelope, it still made me feel sick when it finally came. During the previous inspections, there had been someone else in overall charge, but this time it was me and the responsibility of getting the school ready was mine. Yes, my SMT and every member of staff were fantastic, and worked like Trojans to prepare, but ultimately it was down to me.

"Also, as head, I had to make sure everyone's spirits were kept up; there were some things I couldn't share with any of the staff, because I didn't want to frighten them.

"When the Regi visited, we talked about the S4 form and his hypothesis, which terrified but didn't surprise me. He thought we would fall into a category. I couldn't tell the staff that; it would have freaked them out.

So I put a big smile on my face and kept going." slinky1

"We're in Wales, so it's Estyn rather than Ofsted. Beforehand there was initially much confusion. No one tendered for the contract to inspect our school, so the proposed dates were postponed. Once we had a date, the chief inspector visited in person and answered all our questions about the new inspection format. Not too much was required in the way of paperwork and it was emphasised that teaching and learning would be the main priorities."


"Our senior management team was seriously stressed, telling us to do things we normally don't do, like the word-processed "(insert name of school) lesson plan template" we were expected to use. The amount of paper distributed for various reasons increased tenfold and we used different filing systems: my favourites were the special Ofsted file (bin later) and the "bin now" option." coyote

"I'd be in favour of no notice at all - not even two days. They should just turn up and observe a few lessons. This would keep people on their toes and allow inspectors to see what is really happening. It could be an eye-opener in many schools to see poor lessons, poor teaching, poor discipline, poor pupil attitude and poor management - but, and this is the important thing, they would see what is actually happening, day in day out. There then could be no surprise at falling standards.

"Inspection is essential for our credibility, with parents, with local authorities and with government. And remember, it is inspection not observation: it is not meant to be about feedback, it is reporting what is found. Lesson observation is about feedback and suggestions." robsteadman "The autumn term of my second year of teaching was always going to be challenging even without the shadow of Ofsted looming over us. I work in a very challenging inner-city primary school and was supporting an inexperienced NQT in the other Year 5 classroom. We both have children in our classes with severe emotional, social and behavioural problems with very little support.

"Essentially I was frightened that Ofsted would say I was a failing teacher. Our senior management were (and still are) unapproachable and placed huge demands on us leading up to the inspection.

My conclusions are probably not unusual. That is: don't panic, do what you normally do and, in my case, ignore any demands put on you by SMT if you deem them to be 'unreasonable'.

"I was graded a 'good' teacher for my Year 56 maths and science lesson and 'satisfactory' in my RE lesson. In the final report, we came out as a good school with some 'very good' features. I think I agree." kittikat "Our inspection was very stressful, what with the endless months of hype by the SMT that Ofsted was on its way. Trying as head of department to keep everything sorted, as well as remembering how to teach lessons, not to mention how to fill out the mega-complicated lesson plans which had suddenly been introduced, was demanding to say the least. Constant mixed messages about what to expect did not help - and then getting the information that our inspector was 67 and had not taught for 15 years does make you wonder quite what the point was." cat69

"As a school in special measures, with a former head who left it in a mess and a current head who is fabulous but really was dropped in it, the weeks before the inspection were horrendous. We had to make sure we had all our subject observations done and all of our subject area paperwork in order.

The new head was open and honest with us regarding the S4 form; we looked at it with him and helped put things in that we felt were true and necessary to have known. The S4 was sent to the Regi, who read it and the results, and made preliminary judgments, which were sent to us. He came a few weeks before the inspection, walked around the school, took away the class schedules, talked to pupils, the head, us, parents.

"We got a phone call a few days later: there were problems with our topic subjects (not enough of them throughout the entire school, apparently). So we were all told to change our schedules for that week. My year group had no topics in the spring term because of Sats review but I was told that I needed to write and teach a scheme of work for the couple of weeks or so before the inspection. I nearly had a breakdown and almost walked out there and then. After rebelling, I was told not to worry (it would really have messed up the reviewing schedule). So the stress was still there, but a major portion relieved to some degree." slieber24

"I'm in a school that was put in serious weaknesses last year. Ofsted are expected back next year, but we are already trying to keep paperwork and teaching at the level it was for the last inspection.

"Several teachers are unhappy with their workload and want to resign. They don't want to have to get everything ready and up to date and be held responsible for a curriculum area. Several have been off sick recently, for longer than average periods. We constantly have consultants in, which results in teachers being out of class and having to catch up in their own time. The local authority keeps telling us what we should be doing, but don't give us the time and support to implement it.

"The consultants have done a lot of good, but we feel under pressure to do the right thing and feel like we are being watched all the time. The short notice is a good thing because otherwise there would be three to six weeks of intensified pressure and I'm not sure that we could take it." Anonymous "I have been through three inspections now - as an NQT, as subject leader and head of year, and as assistant headteacher. The preparation this time was more trying for me, as being part of the SMT means having to complete S1-4 documentation. But we have now adopted self-evaluation as a continuous process, ensuring that assessment data is collected, analysed and shared at whole school and department level. HoDs meet with line managers three times a year to discuss departmental progress. If an inspection team does turn up at short notice, we are as ready as we can be; we are not running round like headless chickens stressing out the rest of the staff." mugwuffin "Schools have shot themselves in the foot with Ofsted. They build themselves up for that one small period of time to a standard that can't possibly be maintained. Now we are in a position where only your best is considered acceptable. How I wish that schools had said 'what you see is what you get' from the outset so this lunacy wouldn't exist." pollykb

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