An inspector calls

12th June 2009 at 01:00
When we were inspected, some of the inspectors' judgments seemed arbitrary. What are the criteria they use to reach their judgments?

You may not agree with inspectors' judgments, but you should know how and why they have arrived at them.

Ofsted publishes an evaluation schedule that sets out the criteria for each grade. Judgments are reached by comparing the evidence in your school against the descriptions for the grade. It would be unusual for every detail of each descriptor to be met, but inspectors are expected to find the "best fit" match.

Schools should get hold of the most up-to-date evaluation schedule (downloadable from www.ofsted.gov.uk) and, where they disagree with inspectors' grades, they should not be shy about asking why inspectors have picked one grade rather than another.

It is likely that Ofsted will pose a similar question to school leaders on the self evaluation form (SEF) from September. When you write each self evaluation grade, you may be asked to explain why not the grade above or the one below?

A criticism of evaluation schedules in the past is that they have given too little detail of the criteria for some grades - particularly outstanding. Ofsted appears to be tackling this in schedules being drafted for September. Expect to find detailed descriptors for satisfactory, good and outstanding, plus a precise spelling out of the criteria that demand an inadequate grade.

This will contribute to further improved transparency over inspection judgments. The new schedule next year is also likely to set out more clearly the interaction between inspection judgments - particularly in the impact of attainment (standards) on the overall judgment for pupils' achievement and enjoyment of school. From September, inspectors will be required to judge a school's capacity for sustained improvement as part of its overall effectiveness.

Inspection is set to become even more clear cut and transparent, but do not expect Ofsted's grade criteria to be any less.

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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