School inspection biased

25th May 2007 at 01:00
Q My school has recently been inspected. It got a satisfactory overall rating but inspectors didn't really get an accurate view because of the actions of our senior management team. Parents' views on bullying were ignored (bullying is rife but senior managers pretend it isn't happening).

The only pupils who were interviewed were the ones the school knew would give a good report and, to top it all, the worst 30 to 40 were sent out on a trip. We have to deal with these pupils daily and the school would have failed if they had been there.

A Inspection should be seen as an adjunct of school self evaluation and the system is predicated on the honesty of the parties. Schools naturally want to present themselves in the best light, but it is disturbing to learn from teachers in different schools of leaders being less than frank to the extent that difficult pupils are packed off to disguise the problems they cause. It occurs to me, though, that this strategy is at least as likely to backfire as to make the school look better. If lessons are normally disrupted by poor behaviour, for example, then that will almost certainly be reflected in depressed standards. If inspectors only see well-behaved pupils who are eager to learn, then they will want to know what are the barriers to learning which prevent these paragons from doing better. Their surmise could be that there must be weaknesses in teaching and perhaps, therefore, in leadership and management which are leading to these biddable pupils underachieving. The very short period (typically just two days) between notice of inspection and inspectors arriving at the door means there is far less scope for window-dressing than there was in the past. If, though, you think school leaders have overstepped the dividing line between positive presentation and deliberate deception, then you may want to blow the whistle on this. Immediately in advance of the inspection, you might contact the Regional Inspection Service Provider organising the inspection on Ofsted's behalf, or during the inspection you might ask for a confidential discussion with the lead inspector. Outside the actuality of an inspection, you could, for example, write in confidence to Ofsted. I would address any letter to Her Majesty's chief inspector

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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