Q: Who decides which teachers will be observed on an inspection and which subjects? How much notice, if any, do teachers get? Does the headteacher tell us what grade we have been given?
A: Inspectors do not usually announce in advance which lessons they will be visiting. There may be exceptions, however, where the inspector arranges to carry out joint observations with school leaders. Sometimes in those instances, the lesson to be observed will be suggested by the headteacher or other school leader involved in the observation.
Inspectors offer feedback on all lessons observed and this is usually arranged with the headteacher. Inspectors should give teachers a clear indication of the grade for the lesson and why it's been given. The headteacher will not be told these grades. Obviously, where there are joint observations with school leaders, the inspector and senior management team member would discuss the lesson afterwards and share their grades.
In these instances, it will normally be the SMT member rather than the inspector who gives feedback to the teacher.
Q: We recently had an inspection that concluded we were good in all areas and had outstanding leadership and management. It was stated at the feedback meeting that no changes could be made to the grades given. However, we have since been informed that our "outstanding" leadership is to be changed to "good" because the "reader in London" said that you cannot have outstanding leadership with good standards. Have we been treated unfairly?
A: When giving the feedback at the end of an inspection, inspectors should indicate the possibility that grades might be altered when the inspection evidence is reviewed. If the inspectors told you that their grades were immutable, then that was wrong.
All reports go through quality assurance checks, which mean they are thoroughly checked by a quality assurance reader and are checked again by an HMI before they are published. Neither of these are located at any central base in London. Changes to the report might be made following either of these stages. It is not the job of the reader or HMI to second guess the inspectors; but it is their role to point out where a report is inconsistent or unconvincing. Where this is the case, the lead inspector may redraft or revise the judgements where these seem not to "add up".
Just to clarify, there is no automatic linkage between grades, but where there is an unusual combination, then that needs to be explained clearly and convincingly.
Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.