18th April 2008 at 01:00
Q: Our school was inspected a year ago, but now we are told we may get a subject inspection. What do inspectors do on these? We are a technology college, so is it likely the subjects involved in this will be inspected?

A: You obviously haven't had actual notification of a subject inspection or you would certainly know what subject was being inspected. Any school may be picked for a subject inspection, and the timing does not relate to the date of its whole school inspection.

It is not necessarily the case that a technology college would have a technology subject inspection. I am not privy to the way in which schools are selected for these inspections, but I know that Ofsted seeks to arrange to survey a broad cross-section of schools.

The subject inspections all contribute to an Ofsted report on the subject that does not usually attribute details to any specific school. Individual schools get a letter detailing the inspector's findings, which is made available to the school and is published on Ofsted's website (

Q: What specific guidance are inspectors given in relation to inspecting middle schools?

A: The only guidance specific to middle schools is a reminder to inspectors that they should not rely on key stage 1 assessments to determine pupils' attainment on entry. Whether they are "middle deemed primary" or "middle deemed secondary" (the difference depends on the age at which the oldest pupils move on to high school), middle schools are unusual because they cross key stages.

This means that pupils will join the school partway through KS2 and leave partway through KS3.

Inspectors will be well aware of this and so will expect to look at the school's evidence for how well pupils progress in each key stage.

They will appreciate that only part of the time in each key stage will be spent at middle school, and so the school may only be responsible for part of the achievement apparent from the Sats.

Test data available at RAISEonline ( has recently been adjusted for pupils who change school at the beginning of, or part way through, KS2, as evidence has shown that the change can affect their performance. Inspectors have been informed of this, and told to exercise care in making judgements about progress.

What inspectors won't be able to do is inspect the feeder first schools. You might think that pupils mark time in the early years of KS2 at their first schools, but don't expect inspectors to draw such conclusions about schools they are not inspecting.

All judgements have to be based on evidence, not hearsay

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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