29th February 2008 at 00:00
Q: Ofsted often seems to want schools to involve children more in decision-making and planning. Why? Do inspectors live in the real world? Children often don't know what is best for them. I was a bright child, but went to a school where I could do what I liked - and did. There was a lot of bullying and very little work done. Why does Ofsted think it is good to ask children what and how they should be taught?

A: Some schools go to great lengths to involve even quite young children in decision-making, some do not. It is not Ofsted's role to impose any particular orthodoxy and there is no insistence on any particular model. But as part of Every Child Matters, inspectors are expected to look at pupil involvement in the community, including the school community, and at the opportunities pupils have to take responsibility for their own actions in order to grow as young citizens.

There is an expectation from the Government that pupils should be involved in their own learning. Discussions with pupils on their safety and the quality of care they receive are an essential element of inspection. Pupils are asked whether they feel safe from bullying and other forms of harassment; if they feel confident in approaching staff; if they feel troubled; and whether they are aware of risks, for example, from the internet.

Such discussions can reveal whether their progress is adequately monitored and how effectively they are supported. They should also indicate whether pupils know their targets and whether these are challenging enough.

There may well be exceptions but, in my experience, there is a general correlation between pupils having a sense of ownership in their school and their personal development and the pride and effort they put into their work.

Q: How long should we keep our lesson plans, co-ordinators' files, etc? We had an Ofsted inspection last month and they didn't look at our files at all. I have planning files going back more than four years. What do I need to keep?

A: Inspectors may look at current planning, and it is common for teachers to leave the day's lesson plans out for inspectors when they come into class, but it is unlikely that they would need to look back to the planning from previous terms. As you found on your recent inspection, they may not have a reason to look at planning files at all. I cannot conceive of any circumstances where inspectors would ask to see lesson plans from four years ago.

Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, contact him at

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