An inspector calls

13th March 2009 at 00:00
Behaviour and bullying have always been problems in our school. Does that mean we're doomed to get a bad report when the inspectors come?

Inspectors live in the real world. They know that pupils do not behave like angels all of the time. That said, they will be conscious of every child's right to attend a school where they are safe and not in fear of being bullied, nor having their learning interrupted by the misbehaviour of others.

As we all know, bullying doesn't just mean physical intimidation. Some of the most hurtful bullying typically involves passing spiteful remarks and excluding someone from a friendship group. It is a rare school where there is no bullying at all. What is most important, however, is how effective the school is in deterring bullying and tackling it when it occurs. Inspectors will also want to know that pupils feel able to raise worries over bullying with staff and feel confident that staff will take action.

If inspectors focus particularly on bullying in an inspection, it is often because the matter is raised by parents in their comments on pre- inspection questionnaires. Where bullying emerges as a significant concern, for example when it is raised by several parents, then you can expect inspectors to be looking particularly closely at the school's systems for discouraging bullying and for dealing with any incidents. You can expect them to look at how the school logs incidents and inspectors will almost certainly want to talk to pupils about their experiences. If the school is not dealing effectively with bullying, then you can expect that to be flagged by inspectors. This shortcoming is likely to be reflected in the inspector's grade for care, guidance and support and for leadership and management. If things are so bad that pupils feel unsafe at school, then this could result in the school being judged inadequate overall and being placed in special measures or issued with a notice to improve. If you know that bullying or behaviour are problems in your school, my advice would be to arrest it now rather than wait for inspectors to arrive.

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

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today