26th October 2007 at 01:00
Q. Why does Ofsted give 48 hours' notice of an inspection? We have an impending Ofsted and our school has gone nuts. The 48 hours' notice gives schools the chance to do cosmetic work and it's a joke. Why don't you just turn up on the first day and inspect, then schools have to be ready all the time. Does this not seem more logical?

A. The amount of notice of inspection has reduced steadily over the years. As you say, it is now usually just two days. I was not privy to the plans for the current inspection system, but I imagine the thinking was that two days' notice was considered to be a practical minimum in most circumstances. It avoids, for example, inspectors turning up at a school to find that the day has been designated as a training day. Of course, schools want to show themselves at their best, but I doubt there is a lot of scope for major cosmetic work - unlike the "old days" when schools had literally months of warning about an impending inspection. When the current system was introduced in September 2005, Ofsted reserved the possibility that inspectors might turn up without any notice at all. That is still a possibility. Q Our key stage 2 Sats weren't back when my school was inspected but inspectors looked at the results of our teacher assessments. When our Sats came in, there were more level 5s than we expected and results were better than our teacher assessments. We sent the inspectors copies of the Sats results but they did not change their judgments. Should we complain?

A. Inspectors can only look at the evidence available to them at the time of the inspection. It sounds from your account as if they acted properly, looking not merely at past years' Sats but at the most up-to-date evidence you had to offer on how well the pupils were doing. It is good news that, when they arrived, the Sats exceeded your expectations, but I don't think it would be reasonable to expect inspectors to change their judgments because of further evidence that was not available to them at the time of the inspection. Think how angry schools would be if weaker than expected Sats arriving after the inspection meant inspectors revisited grades and revised them downwards

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

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