QA

25th April 2008 at 01:00
Q: How can Ofsted judge a school properly if staff put on show lessons for inspectors, hide books that haven't been marked and complete all the paperwork within two days' notice of the inspection?
Q: How can Ofsted judge a school properly if staff put on show lessons for inspectors, hide books that haven't been marked and complete all the paperwork within two days' notice of the inspection? Isn't this cheating? If the school covers the cracks, surely this doesn't help the school improve?

A: Inspectors visit lessons to get a flavour of what teaching and learning are typically like in the school. If you were to put on a show lesson that was different from what pupils normally experience, the pupils themselves may indicate, either directly or indirectly, that this is not their usual diet.

The same may be apparent from their work, which inspectors are likely to look at when they are in lessons. In any event, I am not sure that I understand the mechanism by which you can plan to perform show lessons.

Inspectors do not announce in advance which lessons they are coming into. They are usually only likely to visit lessons for 20-30 minutes, and so may come into your lesson partway through.

Inspectors expect to be able to look at books when in class. If they have been hidden to disguise the lack of marking, then they may ask you, or school leaders, or the pupils, where their books are. It is common too for inspectors to ask pupils directly about marking.

Honesty is the best policy - and that's as true for inspection as it is in other walks of life. There is nothing wrong with seeking to present the school in the best light, but you need to avoid straying over the line into the realms of deception.

Schools seeking to cover the cracks are likely to come across as having an inflated view of their own effectiveness. That may impact how inspectors judge their capacity to improve, which would be an important factor in any decision on whether or not the school needs special measures.

Q: Our head says that the subject inspection emphasis has changed recently, but I can't find any mention of this on Ofsted's website. We are told that we have to show more paperwork, that there will be more lesson observations and that the inspections are more rigorous than they were. Is this true?

A: Subject and themed inspections have not changed significantly since they were introduced as part of the current inspection system. Inspectors follow the same framework as for an ordinary inspection, but with a specific focus on the subject. So, for example, an art inspection will still report on pupils' personal development, but more specifically at how art contributes to this. I am not aware of any shift to require more lesson observations than before, nor more paperwork.

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

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