14th March 2008 at 00:00
Q: Who should be informed if Ofsted puts a school in special measures? Should governors and staff be told straight away? Are the parents informed and can staff discuss it with anyone?

A: The lead inspector will formally report their view that the school requires special measures at the end-of-inspection feedback. Regardless of the outcome (whatever the school's grade), the lead inspector should explain to those present (usually the senior leadership team, chair of governors and a local authority representative) that the feedback is provisional and confidential. It is provisional in that judgements could be revised on review of the inspection evidence.

Such changes are rare but possible. In the case of a school subject to special measures or a notice to improve, the inspection evidence will be particularly checked by an HMI because the final decision on putting a school into one of the "causing concern" categories is taken by that inspector.

There have been cases where the review of evidence has shown that special measures are not warranted.

You can see that, because there are such further checks before a report is finalised, the feedback is also confidential. That usually is taken to mean within the immediate school community - in that it would not be unusual for the chair of governors to discuss the provisional findings with other members of the governing body. It does mean, however, that the schools do not usually report the findings to parents or the press until the report is published.

Local authorities usually have their own guidance for their schools on such matters in that they may provide advice on dealing with the local press.

Q: I'm head of technology at a specialist technology school. Could you tell me what inspectors will expect of me as I have not been in this position before? The senior management team seems quite relaxed. It seems to think that lesson observations will be unlikely. I'm not so sure. Can you help?

A: It would not be unusual to expect some observations of lessons or part lessons - including in the school's area of specialism. It is good that your SMT is relaxed; that seems a healthy attitude. As head of the specialism, it is possible that inspectors will want to meet you.

Without knowing the exact circumstances of your school, it is difficult to predict what they will want to see, but you can expect that they will want to know about the impact of the specialism - both on standards and achievement in that subject area but also in its impact on other subjects.

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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