11th July 2008 at 01:00
Q: My school has been on inspection alert since September - we were last inspected in February 2004

Q: My school has been on inspection alert since September - we were last inspected in February 2004. The strain on the staff is starting to tell, and it seems as if we are in a permanent state of anxiety. Is there a time in the summer term after which the inspectors won't come? We are a church school and also face a church inspection after the Ofsted visit.

A: I am sorry for your state of stress. The intention behind the reduced notice for inspection has been to reduce anxiety, but I appreciate that it doesn't always work that way, particularly if you are expecting the call every day.

All schools will be inspected under the now not-so-new framework before August 1, 2009. As you were inspected in February 2004, you are right to expect inspectors' arrival sooner rather than later. Ofsted may inspect any school at any time, which could include the last week of term.

Where possible, the church inspection of the school's denominational religious education and collective worship will be scheduled to take place at the same time as the Ofsted inspection.

Q: Would it not be a good idea for inspectors to visit a school up to the start of the exams, or even until Easter, and then let schools concentrate on the main task of preparing pupils for the exams, rather than on preparing for Ofsted? It is hard to do both well in my experience.

A: Inspectors want to find out what the school is really like, so they are not expecting, nor do they want, a show to be put on for their benefit.

Carry on doing what you would normally do, and that means preparing the pupils, not preparing any differently for inspectors. They will always work around whatever is happening in school - and that includes GCSEs, Sats and other exams.

Q: I work in a secondary school that has been open for a little more than a year. At the moment we only have Year 7 and Year 8 pupils. We have no RAISEonline data as our pupils are yet to take their key stage 3 Sats. In the absence of externally validated data, would it be fair to say that it would be impossible for our school to be rated outstanding?

A: Not at all. RAISEonline is just one source of information, and it is information about what has happened before which may not necessarily be the same as what is happening now. If you think that your pupils are making outstanding progress and that the school is outstanding, you presumably have evidence. That is what you will want to draw to inspectors' attention.

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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