Ofsted Watch - The horror! But NQTs needn't fear inspection

5th December 2014 at 00:00
Being newly qualified can be an advantage when Ofsted visits, so keep calm, seek support and remember to trust in yourself

You are finding your feet, just about getting sorted. You are a newly qualified teacher and you are starting to feel like you can do this. Then your headteacher walks into a meeting, seemingly marching to the theme from Jaws. You see the colour drain from the faces of your colleagues: they have already guessed. It has happened. The phone call.

You have the "keep calm and we'll be OK" talk. Some of your colleagues have turned from grey to green and others look like rabbits caught in headlights. You, however, feel differently: you have the slightest twinge of excitement. You've sat in lecture halls and seminars, you've heard all the stories and now you feel like you're in one of them. Ofsted is coming. But then the excitement turns to a confusion of energy - fear, stress, curiosity. How will you survive those 48 hours?

Before the inspection

Breathe. The next two days will be a roller coaster. First, review your lesson plans, but don't start reinventing the wheel by trying to do something completely different. You can tweak, add and enhance, of course, but the preparations you have already made have brought you to this place for a reason. Your students are on a learning journey, so stick to the path you have chosen, even if you do tidy it up a bit along the way.

Next, accept the support of your colleagues and pupils. You may suddenly become neurotic about a wonky pile of books perched on top of a cupboard or a reading area that looks more like a post-apocalyptic war zone. You don't have time to fix this, but you do have enthusiastic and wonderful students who would relish the opportunity to fix it for you.

Your teaching assistant will also be invaluable: they will be at your side during the inspection, right in the thick of it. Talk through your plans with them, involve them.

Remember that you are not a ringmaster, this is not a circus and your pupils are not performing monkeys. Yes, you want the children to show off their abilities, but you don't want to put on a show: the inspection team will spot it a mile off. Stick to approaches and activities that the students know and enjoy. Think about when your pupils have been at their best - excited, engaged and enjoying their learning.

It's OK to feel positive; you have recently finished your training, so you are probably used to being observed. Compared with other staff members, you are relatively comfortable with having people in your classroom. This is an advantage, so use it, and don't let yourself be sidetracked by colleagues who feel differently.

That's not to say that you shouldn't talk to your colleagues - it is important to communicate. Keep talking and support those who will, in turn, support you. Discuss your plans, worries and concerns, and remember to do the same with the people in your life outside school. Explain the importance of the inspection and warn them that you will be working longer and harder than usual for the next few days. Accept all the help that you can get.

Remember that sleep deprivation is frequently used as a form of torture. Don't do it to yourself by staying up late to fiddle around with unnecessary things. You need to be at your best - and that means being energised and ready for action after a decent night's sleep.

During the inspection

You worked hard to get this job, so show it. Your pupils will be more at ease if you are smiling; a cheerful disposition really will help to project positivity. Inspectors want to see students working in a happy, productive classroom.

Don't be afraid to go off-piste. If you are being observed and something is not going as planned, do exactly what you would do if the inspectors weren't there - change it. Show them that you are adaptable.

And don't do all the work yourself. You shouldn't be stood at the front of the classroom with flailing arms and an overenthusiastic tone: make the children put in the effort, too.

After the inspection

Thank your pupils. Thank your colleagues and everyone else who has supported you. If you have been observed, you will have the opportunity to meet with the inspector and get some feedback. Even if you feel that things didn't work out as you hoped, this discussion will be invaluable for your professional development.

Finally, catch up on some sleep (a glass of pre-bedtime wine is perfectly acceptable).

Sarah Wright trained as a key stage 2 and 3 teacher and is a senior lecturer in primary education at Edge Hill University in Lancashire

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