2nd February 2007 at 00:00
Q We have been told that the inspector will let us know in advance which lessons will be observed (part lessons) and that detailed plans will be expected for them. Is this normal?

A This sounds unusual on two counts. Inspection is a much more transparent process than it may have been, with a sharing from the start, for example, of inspectors' initial hypotheses. This means the school will know what inspectors will be focusing on in their observations.

It does not usually mean, however, that inspectors routinely announce in advance which lessons they will attend. Under previous frameworks, there was an expressed prohibition on inspectors saying in advance which lessons they would see.

More often than not, under the present system, I find as a lead inspector that I don't even see timetables until I arrive at the school.

This means that, even were I so inclined, it would not usually be possible to announce beforehand which lessons I would go to.

There may, however, be occasions when a lead inspector would want to discuss with the head which might be the most appropriate classes to visit - for example, to ensure a reasonable cross-section.

There would not, it seems to me, be much point in inspectors simply seeing a set of "show lessons" with atypical planning put on just for their benefit.

The other point worth noting is that inspectors do not "expect detailed planning" to be especially produced for their benefit. School leaders sometimes insist on staff keeping to a common lesson planning format for the purposes of the inspection, but that should never be a requirement imposed by the inspectors.

Q Do inspectors have time to look at teachers' planning and assessment?

A If there is a need to look at planning, then inspectors will make the time. Inspections have to be focused and inspectors will not be looking at any documentation unless there is a reason. Most often, they will look at whatever planning is given to them when they go into lessons. They will often find it useful to look at assessment records, particularly while in lessons. If, for example, I am talking to children in a maths lesson, it is helpful to know whether the child who is explaining Venn diagrams to me is typical of those at the top, middle or lower part of the class. I can often get that kind of information merely by glancing at the teacher's mark book if that has been left open for me

Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question contact him at Selwyn regularly answers your inspection questions on our forums at

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