An inspector calls

13th February 2009 at 00:00
What evidence do inspectors look for when they consider how well a school is meeting the five elements of the Every Child Matters agenda?

Schools can forget how central the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda is to the present incarnation of inspection. It should form a key part of it, and the inspectors' account of ECM can be expected to permeate the report, just as, in a good school, it will permeate nearly everything the school does.

Inspectors are guided to focus on ECM as an outcome, not a list of what the school provides. The section of the self evaluation form where schools are asked to assess ECM is personal development and wellbeing. Think of this as the outcome you are looking for.

In looking at enjoyment, inspectors examine the extent to which pupils are interested and engaged in lessons and other school activities. Parallels can be drawn between enjoyment and attendance. Older students in secondary schools might truant, but not younger primary school children brought to school by parents. Expect inspectors to draw on what pupils tell them about their likes and dislikes and, crucially, their enthusiasm. Good behaviour can be a useful indicator of enjoyment.

Almost all schools claim to promote healthy lifestyles. In judging ECM outcomes, inspectors need to judge the extent to which pupils are taking the healthy message (quite literally) to heart. Expect inspectors to look for pupils making healthy lifestyle choices for themselves and not just parroting what they think adults want to hear.

It's a rare school where no bullying exists, but inspectors will also want to know whether pupils feel confident that incidents are dealt with effectively. They will want to learn how much pupils know about how to keep safe, including the risks and dangers of using the internet. What the school has done to ensure pupils are safe is also important.

The way pupils take on responsibility within school and, particularly for older pupils, their interest and involvement in what happens outside it, will be weighed in judging pupils' contribution to the community.

Inspectors will look at the extent to which pupils take an interest and involve themselves in the wider community. This can link with the school's contribution to promoting community cohesion. The school needs to have an overarching strategy, not just a set of worthy activities.

How children respond to learning about personal finance and work is also topical now. In secondary schools, inspectors will also be interested in the benefits pupils gain from work experience and work-related learning.

They will be interested in what pupils have learnt from careers education, as well as, of course, academic achievement - especially in developing key skills. With younger pupils, greater emphasis is given to key literacy, numeracy and ICT skills, study skills and working in teams.

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

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