Ofsted on parade

4th November 1994 at 00:00
Inspecting for quality, The Office for Standards in Education video. Pounds 30 from Ofsted, Room, 113, Elizabeth House, York Road, London SE1 7PH. First we had Ofsted the Framework. Now we have Ofsted the video. Can the tee-shirt and the computer game be far behind?

This 30-minute video, produced by Central Television in association with Channel 4, has been given to all 1,250 registered inspectors to use with parents, governors, and teachers before an inspection begins, and is presumably intended to de-mystify the process, and offer reassurance.

Jon Snow opens the programme in his children's school, of which he is a governor. The school is shortly to be inspected, and he takes us through all the stages of a full inspection.

He starts by interviewing Anthea Millett of Ofsted, who informs us that an inspection is designed to provide accountability, supply information to parents, and to help the school improve itself. According to her, the inspection focuses on standards, the quality of learning and efficiency in using resources.

Three schools, in Manchester, Coventry, and Walsall, which have recently been inspected are featured in the video. The headteacher of one assures us that the inspection process is about people not paper, and an inspector confirms that he is not too worried about a lack of documentation if the classroom practice is sound. Nevertheless, the schools are shown collecting together the large number of documents required, and the importance of providing the information on the school's context is emphasised.

The pre-inspection meetings with parents and staff are briefly illustrated, with the parents being reminded that their comments should be of a general nature.

The inspection process is well illustrated, with teachers commenting on their feelings and reactions. Some of the scenes, however, look as though they have been recreated after the event, such as the one in which an inspector asks a governor "How do the governors oversee the school's work?". I still cannot decide whether this question was subtle or simplistic. The impression given is that the conclusions are based on some very sweeping generalisations. I was also concerned to hear an inspector state that in drafting the report, he checked that the evidence they had got matched up with the judgments they had made the wrong way around, surely?

The headteachers are honest about the demanding nature of the process, but seem confident that the inspections have been beneficial for their schools, and the overall message of the video is that an OFSTED inspection is relatively trouble-free.

I didn't expect OFSTED to tackle the strongly-held objections to them or their methods. But I was left wishing that their video had been produced by a different John Cleese, say it might have been more effective. As it stands, it is worthy but dull.

To be transmitted on December 6, on Channel 4 at 4am.

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