28th March 2008 at 00:00
Q: We had Ofsted in recently and were heading for a verdict of satisfactory with elements of good. However, on the morning of the second day, the lead inspector received a long, ranting letter of complaint from a parent. She investigated and decided to give us a notice to improve. Staff are furious. Is this fair?

A: These things do happen. The inspection isn't over till it's over and evidence can arise on the second day that raises new concerns or sheds a different light on what has already been seen. I do not know and cannot comment on the specifics of your case. But inspectors are expected always to triangulate evidence rather than accept it from one source.

If one parent voices worries about, say, homework, but others praise it, inspectors may very well not follow up the complaint. If several parents voice similar concerns, however, inspectors will almost certainly examine the issue. Similarly, worries raised about bullying may well be tested by talking to pupils about their experiences, rather than taking staff reassurances that all is well.

Sometimes a parent raises a matter of such overriding concern that inspectors are required to follow it up. If, for example, an allegation is raised of child abuse, inspectors have specific guidelines that they are required to follow. These involve logging the concerns and ensuring that they are passed on. But inspectors won't pursue the investigation themselves.

Q: If an Ofsted inspection found that leadership and management were inadequate but teaching and learning were good and Sats results were fine, what would be the likely outcome? Special measures? Notice to improve?

A: It is possible for a school to be providing an acceptable standard of education despite ineffective leadership and management. In that situation, inspectors could issue a notice to improve.

If the school was not providing an acceptable standard of education, and leadership and management were among the aspects that were inadequate, then it is unlikely that inspectors would think that the present leadership was demonstrating capacity to improve the school - in which case, special measures would be required

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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