An inspector calls

17th July 2009 at 01:00
Three years ago, our inspectors were overly generous with grades. Next time round, it may look as if things have gone downhill. How can we show that the last inspection got it wrong?

When your next inspection comes, the inspectors will evaluate how the school has done since last time, and most of all how it is doing now.

You cannot expect them to try to second-guess the previous team and re- inspect the school as it was three years ago. That said, they will have several key measures that give them an objective picture of what things were like when the school was last inspected.

The RAISEonline data, which they and you will have access to, shows what standards were like in relation to national averages. It also gives an indication as to previous pupils' rates of progress. If, for example, the previous inspection judged standards to be above average and they were really only average, inspectors will certainly know this. It won't hurt to flag that you know this too by saying so in your self evaluation form (SEF).

Comparing grades between inspections can be invidious because Ofsted periodically updates the criteria in the evaluation schedule that inspectors have to use. That will be especially true for inspections from September as Ofsted has made major revisions to the schedule as part of the new inspection framework that will apply from then on. Details can be downloaded from the Ofsted website: www.ofsted.gov.uk.

In judging improvement since the last visit, expect inspectors to focus not so much on the grade numbers in the old report as the trend in results and the progress that the school has made in addressing the issues identified in the last report. You need not be overly concerned if standards are not as high as they were described in the last inspection, especially if you can point to actual improvements over the period.

If the trend in standards is downwards, though, that may mean inspectors will be concerned that things have gone downhill. You will need to explain to them why standards have drifted and what the school has done to arrest the decline

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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