23rd March 2007 at 00:00
Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question contact him at regularly answers your Ofsted questions on our forums at

Q. What does Ofsted expect about inservice training?

I am (hopefully) flying abroad on a teaching fellowship with the Imperial War Museum and will miss two days of school. But my school is on a notice to improve and expecting a visit from inspectors any day.

My headteacher has said that I cannot go on my teaching fellowship if the visit is on either of those days. Would Ofsted expect him to do that?

I am an ordinary class teacher with no key leadership responsibility, and my subject wasn't picked up on as an issue in the last inspection. I'm concerned given that this is not just a local training session but a huge opportunity that I would be really upset to miss.

A. Ofsted does not expect schools to alter their arrangements for the benefit of inspectors. Nor does it want or expect schools to put activities on hold in anticipation of an impending inspection.

In fact, it is not at all uncommon for inspectors to find that they are in school at a time when one or more teachers are out on a previously booked activity. In the latter part of the summer term, it is, if anything, the norm for one or more teachers to be out and about - particularly with residential trips and visits. It is, of course, up to your headteacher and governors whether they approve your in-service training. I would hope, however, that the possibility that inspectors might happen to call at that time would not weigh heavily as a significant factor in the school's decision.

Q. I was just thinking what an awful word "satisfactory" is. I think that Ofsted could use a better word. Not sure what though.

A. I think the reason why some are troubled by the word "satisfactory" is that, in everyday non-Ofsted usage, it is so often accompanied by an adverb that makes it sound more negative.

For example "just satisfactory", "barely satisfactory". The problem is that the same is true of pretty much any of the synonyms that people have come up with. Most people think that the word "adequate" sounds worse.

The word "reasonable" is sometimes used, but it carries connotations that make it more applicable to some judgments (for example, progress since the last inspection) than others (such as leadership and management).

However, sometimes inspectors have to make the point that satisfactory is just not good enough. If there has been a legacy of prior underachievement in a school, satisfactory teaching may not be sufficient to help pupils catch up on lost ground

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