1st February 2008 at 00:00
Q: In my experience, many inspectors are ex heads of failing schools. The head leaves following the Ofsted report (before being asked to go), retaining some dignity, and retrains as an inspector. Nice work if you can get it.

A: I cannot let this canard go unchallenged. The criteria that Ofsted insists upon is that all inspectors are "fit and proper persons". Among other things, this means they are required to certify that they were not a governor, head, deputy head or in any other position of management at the time of, or in the year prior to, a school being put into special measures or serious weaknesses. If a prospective inspector cannot sign such a declaration, their case is considered on its merits, but they will only be allowed to join the inspectorate in exceptional circumstances: the strong presumption is that failed heads are not eligible to become inspectors.

Q: I am talking to pupils as part of literacy monitoring. What questions would inspectors ask pupils when they interview them and what would they hope to hear?

A: This will to some extent depend on the circumstances of the individual school: issues may be raised from the school's self-evaluation form, or may crop up in responses from parents in the questionnaires. I would usually expect inspectors to use their meeting with pupils to find out about each of the Every Child Matters outcomes. They will probably ask what they most like about school and what, if any, changes they would make. They may ask about the academic guidance through marking, and any targets they have.

Q: I gather that grades are sometimes changed by readers. I understand these are HMI and assumed to have sufficient experience to make the judgements they do. What proportion of grades get changed in this way?

A: Readers and sign-off HMI are not the same people. All reports, including those written by HMI, are checked by a reader, who will usually be an experienced inspector, not HMI. It will be someone employed by the regional inspection service provider organising inspections on Ofsted's behalf.

When I am not in school inspecting, I work as a reader. Reports are also subsequently checked and signed off by the HMI. Grade changes are usually made by the lead inspector: readers and sign-off HMI do not change grades.

Ofsted's expectation is that where a grade is changed, the lead inspector will contact the school to explain this. I don't have any statistics on how often grades are changed, but in my experience, significant changes are usually pretty rare.

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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