Inspections? Let's be positive

10th October 2003 at 01:00
One of the scariest things about inspection is the thought that you might contribute to your school failing. As a new teacher, this is highly unlikely. The most commonly awarded grade on the seven-point scale is three. Unsatisfactory and poor teaching are seen in only 4 per cent of lessons. Almost half of those taught by new teachers are graded between "excellent" and "good". Most schools emerge with credit, but this doesn't stop people worrying.

There are three categories of "fail". The worst that can happen is that the school is deemed to be failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education, thus it requires special measures. Other schools have serious weaknesses in one or more areas, and a small number of schools, although not requiring special measures or having serious weaknesses, are deemed to be underachieving. About 3 per cent of schools are put in special measures, 5 per cent have serious weaknesses and 1 per cent are deemed to be underachieving.

Failing schools have to send their post-inspection action plan to Ofsted and the Department for Education and Skills. The local education authority is required to support the school and prepare its own commentary on the school's action plan and a statement of action it (the LEA) intends to take. Inspectors make regular visits to check progress. Special measures can be removed only through reinspection by Ofsted. Schools with serious weaknesses are normally revisited six to eight months later.

Schools in special measures can only have a newly qualified teacher if the inspectors feel it is a suitable environment, but some new teachers find themselves in a school that fails soon after they arrived. If that happens, keep reminding people about your status and make sure you get support at school and from the local education authority.

People worry about the repercussions of working in a failing school, but you can't be accountable. It can be positive because improvements will be made. You'll get lots of observations from people who you can trust. One NQTfelt that she got excellent feedback on her teaching that helped her make a lot of progress.

Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page, pound;12.99. See

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