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4th July 2008 at 01:00
Q: I have heard that a school which is due to be inspected shortly intends to have a member of the senior management team (SMT) shadowing inspectors and sitting in on observations

Q: I have heard that a school which is due to be inspected shortly intends to have a member of the senior management team (SMT) shadowing inspectors and sitting in on observations. Doesn't this undermine the independence of the inspection? It will allow the team to target teachers if they think they have underperformed. Isn't it already the case that inspectors have to report teachers' lesson grades immediately to the headteacher, particularly where a lesson is judged inadequate?

A: It is not unusual for inspectors to offer school leaders the option of paired lesson observations.

This contributes to inspectors' evaluation of the quality of leaders' monitoring. Where it is done, Ofsted expects the lead inspector to first set out some basic ground rules.

Observations carried out for the inspection should not be used for other purposes. It would not be appropriate for there to be a joint observation of a teacher under threat of competency.

Where there are paired observations, then the inspector will certainly discuss the lesson seen with the headteacher or other SMT member who was with them. It is not usual for inspectors to otherwise discuss in detail each lesson seen.

There is no obligation for inspectors to report any specific lesson grades immediately to the headteacher.

Q: How do you become an Ofsted inspector?

A: There are essentially two types of inspectors. Some are employed directly by Ofsted. These are usually appointed as Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI), and you will periodically see advertisements in The TES when they recruit new additions to the ranks. There are also additional inspectors (AI). These can include a few people who are taken on directly by Ofsted and trained by it, usually on a fixed-term secondment from schools.

AIs are mostly trained and employed by the Regional Inspection Service Providers (RISPs), who organise inspections on Ofsted's behalf in each region. Some are salaried employees but most have a contract to cover a set amount of inspection work.

These AIs are trained by RISP and they are signed off by an HMI who always monitors the quality of their work on their first inspection.

Ofsted is keen to refresh its pool of inspectors, so there is an expectation that RISPs will continue to train and give work to new entrants. Those who become inspectors through this route have to pay for their training. The costs will vary.

It would be worthwhile contacting the RISP in your region, and perhaps the neighbouring region, to find out more about what they have on offer and what the exact costs will be.

Selwyn 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, contact him at askaninspector@tes.co.uk.

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