8th February 2008 at 00:00
Q: How can inspectors judge how much pupils have learnt without speaking to them? We had an inspector who sat at the back of the classroom and didn't ask pupils any questions.

A: Inspectors will often talk to pupils in lessons, but this is not always possible, particularly when inspectors are only sampling part of a lesson.

There are, though, other ways of gauging progress - for example, through pupils' responses to teachers' questions. Inspectors may also gauge learning from looking at pupils' work.

Q: Should I check with senior managers on what the self-evaluation form (SEF) says with reference to my year group? If so, will that give me a clue to what inspectors are looking for, or what their focus will be on? Surely they must have some specifics in mind. They can't just want a general nosey, can they?

A: You are quite right - inspectors don't go into lessons for a general nosey about, they will have a specific purpose for their observations. That will be set out in the pre-inspection briefing (PIB) that the lead inspector produces in advance of the inspection and which will be shared with the headteacher.

In preparing the PIB, the lead inspector will draw heavily on the SEF, so, yes, it will be very helpful to check out with your senior management team what the school is saying in its SEF.

Q: We have been told that Ofsted inspections were concentrating on the core subjects and only looked at foundation subjects if they had been highlighted by the headteacher. Is this true? Will they be interested in me as music co-ordinator?

A: It is not entirely true, but I can see how the misconception arises. Inspectors no longer routinely make judgements on individual subjects.

They do, however, need to gauge the breadth of the curriculum, so they may sample a variety of the subjects on offer, just to get a flavour of what the school provides. That means they may well see a music lesson, but they will not usually be seeking to make judgements specifically about standards in music.

There might, however, be more of a focus on a specific subject if that is, as you say, highlighted as a notable strength or weakness in the school's SEF or if it is highlighted as such in the last inspection report.

Inspectors do not routinely meet with all subject co-ordinators, but they may want to meet with some, and that might include the music co-ordinator. If your school has specialist status for music or performing arts, then a meeting with you may be all the more likely.

Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, contact him at

Selwyn regularly answers your Ofsted questions on our forums at

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