23rd November 2007 at 00:00
Q: It's good that the "light-touch" inspections are over with quickly, but ours seemed rather superficial and the report was bland and told us nothing we did not already know. Doesn't that make it a waste of time?

A: The current model of inspection is certainly very different from previous ones. Whereas previously, inspectors went into schools and judged them "from scratch" (for example, looking at a substantial sample of teaching), inspection is now much more about checking out the school's self-evaluation.

That means inspections are "light touch" and, if self-evaluation is accurate, then it may well mean inspectors' now quite short reports are confirming what school leaders know. To take an analogy, just because auditors conclude that a company's accounts are correct and in order does not mean that audit is unnecessary.

Earlier this year, the House of Commons select committee on education queried whether inspections may be too "light touch".

The important point that MPs made is that the current system ought to be thoroughly evaluated. I am sure that that is a conclusion that we would all share, whatever our individual views on the merits or otherwise of the inspection system.

As I first argued in The TES more than two years ago when the current system was being introduced, Ofsted needs to demonstrate that inspections provide appropriate rigour and are helping to drive school improvement.

If they do not, then Her Majesty's Chief Inspector will want to further revise the inspection regime to ensure that it is effective.

Q: My son's school had an inspection recently with an apparently very aggressive team who upset and demoralised a lot of staff. Why are some mavericks allowed to pursue their own personal agendas?

A: After every inspection, schools are invited to comment on their inspection by filling in a short questionnaire. It is a pity that not all headteachers complete these.

Where schools have a positive experience of inspection, they should say so. Where they believe that inspectors have acted improperly or unprofessionally, they should also say so. In the latter case, there are also clear procedures to follow to lodge a formal complaint.

Where complaints arise, they are always investigated and adjudicated upon. If an inspector is found to? have acted in breach of Ofsted's code of conduct, competency action can be taken

- 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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