An inspector calls

8th May 2009 at 01:00

Our Ofsted inspection is overdue and we are now running parents' evenings and have school visits planned. If we get the call, should we cancel these?

Certainly not. Inspectors will never want things changed or reorganised for their benefit. With the very short notice of inspection that schools are now given, it is not unusual that some special activity will have been booked on the day that inspectors are due in. It could be a school trip, parent consultation evening, visiting theatre group or even examinations.

Inspectors will work around whatever is going on. If that means one of the classes or a whole year group is out of school on a trip, then so be it. Inspectors may look in on their classroom and examine their books to get a picture of their work, but definitely will not want prearranged visits to be cancelled.

Similarly, there is really no reason why parents' meetings should be postponed. Inspectors typically spend much less time than they used to in after-school meetings with staff. Where there is a need for meetings with particular staff, they are usually quite short. Sometimes a head takes the decision to postpone a parents' evening if it is found to overlap with an inspection. Where this happens, it is a decision by the school, and is usually explained as intended to reduce the pressure on staff.

It is worth mentioning here that inspection is not dependent on the presence of any particular individual. Even the absence of a headteacher is not normally accepted by Ofsted as grounds for postponing an inspection. Just as on other days when the headteacher is absent, Ofsted expects that responsibility is delegated. So, in a school with part-time staff, inspection can fall on a day that key staff are not in. If a part-time special needs co-ordinator (Senco) is not working on inspection days, inspectors may be grateful for an offer from the Senco to come in to see them, but they will not demand or expect this. They will expect that school procedures should be robust enough that they are not reliant on the presence of any one person.

Selwyn Ward has been an inspector for 15 years, working in primary and secondary schools. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, email him at features@tes.co.uk.

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