27th June 2008 at 01:00
Q: In our small school, the headteacher has taken the decision that some subjects should be co-ordinated by teaching assistants rather than qualified teachers

Q: In our small school, the headteacher has taken the decision that some subjects should be co-ordinated by teaching assistants rather than qualified teachers. What would inspectors think about this?

A: Inspectors see a variety of leadership structures as they go from school to school. You might think of some as more conventional than others, but inspectors should not go into schools with any preconceptions about how leadership and management should be structured.

Over the years I have seen jobshare headteachers; schools taking a collegiate approach to subject leadership so that there are no co- ordinators; schools with management teams shared across a local federation of different institutions; and schools with subjects being led by teaching assistants or various other unqualified staff.

In judging leadership and management, inspectors' focus is on how effectively it works. You might expect, however, that if a school has particularly unusual management arrangements then inspectors are likely to look especially carefully at how well it works because, after all, it will be a stand-out feature of the school.

Q: Comparing published inspection grades, it looks like junior schools are twice as likely to be put in a causing concern category than infant or all-through primary schools. Why should this be so? Isn't it worthy of investigation?

A: I agree that this merits investigation. I have previously commented on the noticeable correlation between the age range covered by the pupils in a school and the distribution of inspection grades detailed in Her Majesty's Chief Inspector's Annual Report.

This could reflect better learning for younger children than older ones, but it could also reflect the fact that performance data becomes increasingly robust as pupils get older.

Allegations over key stage 1 assessments, by the way, are not all one way. Headteachers sometimes allege that neighbouring primary schools massage their key stage 1 figures downwards to make their value added data look better at the end of key stage 2

Selwyn ward

Selwyn has been an inspector for 15 years, working in primary and secondary schools. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, contact him at

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